By Tim Leeds
Ron VandenBoom's experience reporting on the Legislature has prompted him to file as a Republican candidate for House District 90, he said.
VandenBoom told those gathered at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Havre on Sunday that covering the Legislature gave him a unique insight into government.
"I've always been interested in politics, but not in being involved in politics," VandenBoom, formerly a reporter with the Havre Daily News, said in an interview last week.
VandenBoom said it was especially interesting to interview people on both sides of issues, and he found there were caring individuals on both sides.
He considered running for the Senate seat being vacated by state Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, because of term limits, but thought he had a better chance in the House district because he's better known in Havre and Hill County than in eastern Blaine County.
While he likes and respects many Democrats, including the HD 90 incumbent John Musgrove, VandenBoom said he generally agrees with the philosophies of the Republican Party. He said he doesn't like the term "conservative, " a catch-all that implies some things he doesn't agree with.
VandenBoom said the key to helping Montana is helping the economy.
"Everything placed on the (government's) agenda is secondary to the economy," he said. "Without money it's pointless."
He said he has ideas to stimulate the economy, but he wants to hear from local businesses about what they would like to see before he decides what should be done.
VandenBoom said businesses can take steps to increase their profits, like concentrating on value-added products, networking with other businesses, and taking advantage of programs to help become diversified.
Widening U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes is definitely needed to help the economy, VandenBoom said.
"There is no guarantee economic prosperity will follow with 4 for 2, but there is a guarantee there won't be without it," he said. "Transportation is crucial to economic survival."
Use of modern technology is also part of improving the economy, Vandenboom said.
"I'd hate to see Havre and the Hi-Line, Chinook, to fall behind simply because we're not part of the Internet cyber-generation," he said.
VandenBoom said he thinks the Legislature has to find a way to restructure the financing of public schools so it is more equitable. He said he wants to preserve smaller schools in Montana. In some situations, consolidation may be the answer, although he thinks further consolidation in western Hill County is probably not needed. He will make a decision on that once he sees what is recommended, he said.
VandenBoom, a native of Quincy, Ill., came to Havre while serving in the U.S. Air Force. After his honorable discharge in 1971, he stayed in Montana, living in Havre except for brief periods working in Great Falls, Shelby and the Butte-Anaconda area.
He attended Northern Montana College with a major in history and social science and a minor in political science in the 1970s. He returned to Montana State University-Northern in 1989-1990 and from 1993-95.
VandenBoom has two children, three stepchildren and five grandchildren with his wife, Debe. He is self-employed as a writer and is a member of the H. Earl Clack Musem Board and the Fort Assiniboine Preservation Association Board.