By Tim Eberly
Ward 4 Republican candidate Erik Meis just doesn't have the time.
Meis owns several Havre businesses Blue Bear Car Wash, EMT Car Wash and Emtas Inc. to name three but the expansion of his West Winds Courier Service Inc. has forced his quest for a Havre City Council seat to drop several notches on his priority list.
"He told me he expanded his courier service with some routes out of Helena, and he didn't have time to work on the campaign," said Brad Lotton, chairman of the Hill County Republican Central Committe.
Meis, who will face Democrat Allen "Woody" Woodwick on the ballot in Tuesday's election, did not return numerous phone calls from the Daily News or respond to a Daily News candidate questionnaire.
Before the primary election, Meis wrote in a questionnaire from the Daily News that the three most important issues in Havre are updating and maintaining the city's infrastructure, attracting new businesses, and working to control crime and litter. He also told the Daily News that he was more qualified than any current City Council member.
Woodwick said he'd heard that Meis had stopped his political advertising and wasn't putting up more campaign signs, but tried to not let it affect his campaign.
"I'm not popping champagne corks quite yet," the 40-year-old Woodwick said. "How hard he is working is immaterial to me. I still have to do whatever I have to do to get elected."
That includes being crafty. Woodwick likes to listen to the college radio station while working in his garage. Now he's talking back.
"I call the college radio station with requests all the time," Woodwick said.
His motivation? Free publicity; Woodwick never fails to drop his name and his mission. "I know I've had a few plugs up there," said Woodwick, who knows some of the deejays from the station.
The lead singer of Woodwick's classic rock 'n' roll band, "Little Wizard," has also given Woodwick, the bass guitar player, a few plugs between sets while playing gigs at Shamrock's Bar and the 15 West Bar & Eatery in the last month.
"He was pretty much reminding people to vote," Woodwick said of his lead vocalist.
Woodwick is not averse to showing up at public gatherings to siphon feedback from the community. Recently, his parish, St. Jude's Catholic Church, had a harvest dinner and Woodwick was picking the brains of those in attendance.
"Anywhere people gather is a good place to get a sampling of opinions because I'm hopefully going to be representing them," Woodwick said.
On Oct. 17, Woodwick requested to speak at a Havre Area Chamber of Commerce meeting about economic development. In his discourse, Woodwick expressed the need for the chamber to work more closely with the city council. "I think everybody agreed with me," he said. "I think it's a good time for us to start working together. We need to bolster up the local businesses we have and that is going to take every entity we have."
A staple at city council and various committee meetings since he registered to run, Woodwick is attempting to shave precious time off his learning curve if elected. "I've hit the majority of them," he said. "That's the best way to know how the council operates, to watch them. It's a whole different ballgame on the opposite side of the railing."
Most of the residences in Ward 4 were visited by Woodwick during the primary election, when he handily defeated incumbant Arnold Tyler. During his campaign for the general election, Woodwick has returned to the beaten path. "There were a few (residences) that I missed and that's where I've been going back over," Woodwick said. "It seems like I'm not hitting it as hard as I did (during the primary), but I'm still staying busy."
Judging by his victory over Tyler and Meis's fade from the campaign trail, Woodwick appears primed to savor his first taste of local politics. But, like Woodwick says, you won't find any champagne in his cupboard.
"I've enjoyed it a lot," Woodwick said. "I like yakking and talking to people. Win, lose or draw, it's been worth it."