By Ron VandenBoom
County commissioners are the chief executive authority in every county of Montana and one of the three seats that compose the commission comes up for reelection every two years.
Hill County, like all counties in the state, is divided into three commission districts each about equal in population and land area. One commissioner will run every two years for a six-year term.
Commissioners must live in the districts they represent, but they run for election county-wide.
The 2000 election will see District Three, a seat currently held by Kathy Bessette, up for grabs.
District Three runs from the Canadian Border south down Third Avenue in Havre to 10th Street and east on 10th to the Blaine County Line.
While the salary of a commissioner is one of the highest of all elected officials at $32,805.01, the duties and responsibilities are also some of the greatest and most time consuming of the elective offices.
County commissioners appoint department heads and members to all county boards, election judges, and deputy election registrars, and also appoint someone to fill any vacancies that occur due to death or resignation.
More than 30 county boards exist in Hill County and the three commissioners oversee their function by personally attending most of the meetings. Many of these boards meet after what most people consider normal working hours and therefore require commissioners to regularly work more than an eight-hour day.
Supervisory powers over those they have appointed is strong, but the commissioners' authority over elected county officials is considerably less. They may in some cases have the power however to consolidate offices of elected officials and regulate the number of subordinates elected officials have.
In some ways this places the commissioners in the role of an employer as they also approve sick leaves, terminations, and approve payrolls.
Commissioners are charged by law with the responsibility of to supervise the conduct of officers charged with "assessing, collecting, safekeeping and management or disbursement of the public revenues."
In this regard they act as the keeper of the county budget and administer and approve all funds, budgets, transfers and investments. At the same time they are responsible for seeking out available grants and for setting Mil Levies.
They also are responsible for keeping a close eye on the counties infrastructure. This means that they will inspect public roads and other county properties that may require maintenance or up-grades. By extension this includes the authority to enter into contracts and award bids on road, water, sewer, building, or maintenance projects as the need arises. They are also in both the direct and indirect sense, responsible for public safety.
The also have the authority to lease or sell property and equipment that belongs to the county.
Those interested in running for Hill County Commissioner would be well served to have and administrative or executive background and a strong desire to serve the county.
A filing fee of $154.02 is required to run for commissioner and should be filed with the Clerk and Recorders Office beginning Jan. 24 and no later than March 23.