By Ron VandenBoom
A meeting room filled with supporters applauded when Bob Rice announced he's entering the race for mayor of Havre as a Republican.
Rice will be running against one of two Democratic candidates that have so far announced Mike Shortell, former Havre police chief, or Roberta Demarest, former candidate for House District 91. Mayor Phyllis Leonard is not running again.
Rice, who four years ago lost a similar bid to become mayor in a race against incumbent Leonard, told the crowd it was a tough and emotional decision for him to make.
"The last time I did this alone," he said. "This time I'm hoping for some help."
Rice told the crowd of well-wishers he would need help financially, but also with passing out pamphlets and the placement of yard signs.
Few of Rice's objectives have changed since his last run for mayor. He told the crowd he still wants to get a skateboard park for kids. Rice said he has been working for two years to make the park a reality.
The economy was also on Rice's mind Wednesday night.
"The economy in Havre stinks," he said. "We all know that."
While Rice said he has some ideas on the economy that he doesn't want to discuss at this time, he did say that one thing Havre should do is become more military friendly for retiring military personnel.
"If I brought 10 retired military people here in two years, that would be $40,000 per," he said. "That's $400,000 to the economy. That's new money."
Rice said he expects the campaign is going to be a rough ride.
"I know that," Rice said. "The last time I didn't know what I was getting into and how rough a ride it really was."
Rice, who works for Tempo Electric, said he anticipates the same reaction he got last time except worse. He listed cement on his car windshield, eggs on his car, and rude and obnoxious phone calls as examples of what he went through during his last campaign.
"I had to have my cell phone number changed twice," he said.
Rice is the current commander of Havre VFW Post 497 and served as chairman of the Hill County United Way campaign last year.
"People that know me know I give 110 percent," he said. "I know it's going to be a tough job, I know Havre's going to need a lot of work. But I think there are enough people in this community that care that it can be done."
Shortell said the announcement will not change his plans or tactics.
He said he has the most experience with city government, having worked with city employees for years as Havre's police chief.
"I know their style and they know my style," Shortell said. "I have a good working relationship with them and it will be a pleasure working with them again."
Shortell said he is also familiar with the budget process and the workings of the city council and county commissioners. "That advantage will serve me well," he said.
Demarest could not be reached for comment.
Ron Wolford used Wednesday night's gathering to make an announcement that he will be running as a candidate for the Havre City Council from Ward 4.
Wolford will be running against Democratic incumbent Arnold Tyler, who has already announced he will seek re-election.
"So much of the thinking of our city government process has been inside the box," Wolford said. "We need to start thinking outside the box with new and innovative ideas."
Wolford, who is a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant and will succeed Rice as commander of VFW Post 497, said he believes the community is ready for a change, but as of this time he has not had a chance to speak with the people in Ward 4 to learn what it is they feel is needed.
"My only real commitment at this time is to do the best job I can and try to represent the people fairly and honestly," he said.
Brad Lotton, chairman of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, said he expects more Republican candidates will be filing for City Council seats before the deadline on June 28, but they are not ready yet to make an announcement. The primary election is in September.
Lotton said Rice will win in November.
"I have no doubt in my mind that Bob Rice will be our next mayor," he said, adding that Rice's bid four years ago and all of the work he has done in the community since that time has made him better known than he was then.