A Chouteau County commissioner and farmer planned today to formally announce his intention to run in the race to become the next governor of Montana.
“I think I can bring a good perspective with my background in agriculture and as a small business owner,” Commissioner Jim O’Hara said this morning.
O’Hara, who will celebrate his 57th birthday Friday, was scheduled to formally announce his candidacy at 2 this afternoon at the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton.
A semi-retired farmer, who has leased his property to a relative while working as a county commissioner, O’Hara and his wife, Vicky, live on the land about 8 miles east of Fort Benton homesteaded by his grandfather in 1910. He has served as a county commissioner for the last 10 years.
He said this morning that his two main focuses, at this point, are in trying to streamline government and to promote alternative energy, an issue in which he has been directly involved.
O’Hara said he believes the state government can be streamlined and made more efficient, although he admits it will take work.
“I’m not saying simplifying government would be simple,” he said.
He is directly involved in alternative energy and fuel production. A founding member and member of the board of directors of Peaks and Prairies, he said he would push for that and other alternative energy production, particularly wind energy.
“We’re blessed with a lot of energy resources,” O’Hara said.
Peaks and Prairies is a company based out of Malta which uses oil seeds to produce bio-based lubricants and other products.
“We were pretty optimistic that it would create jobs,” he said, adding that the company is continuing to grow.
O’Hara said he also has been actively involved in recruiting wind farm development, and now is working with an Irish-based wind development company.
He said he will continue to work on developing Montana’s agricultural economy, particularly in value-added agriculture.
“Instead of shipping our products out of the state in raw form, we need to add value to our products and then ship them out,” he said.
He added that, although he is no longer actively farming, his background in the industry is something he believes the state needs.
“Once a farmer, always a farmer,” he said.
O’Hara has long been active in economic development, including acting as a former member of the economic development group Montana Ambassadors and as an original member of the Montana Association of Counties’ Economic Development Committee.
He and his wife have two grown and married daughters, one living in Bozeman and one in Sheridan, Wyo.