By Ross Markman
The races for treasurer and justice of the peace of Hill County highlight a primary election ballot dominated by incumbents and chock full of unopposed candidates.
The election will be held Tuesday at various locations throughout the county. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. The deadline to vote absentee is Monday at noon.
The treasurer's race features a clerk, fired after eight years in the Treasurer's Office, running against her former boss on the Democratic ticket.
Kathleen Galbavy-Williams, who was dismissed in early 2001, is a 51-year Hill County resident who now teaches at the Eastend Hutterite Colony.
"The position will give me a unique opportunity to combine skills honed over the years with a pure enjoyment of working with the people," Galbavy-Williams, 54, said.
"I'm very confident," she added. "It's my intention to win the election."
Seeking a third term in the office, incumbent Treasurer Carrie Dickson has worked 13 years for the county eight as treasurer, five as a clerk in the same office.
"I love my job. I love working with the crew and the public," she said.
Dickson has an associate's degree in accounting from Lane Community College in Oregon, something that combined with her experience, she said, makes her the right person for the job.
"I have the knowledge of the accounting area, not only the software but all aspects of the office, which you don't get just by walking in," said Dickson, 40. "Thirteen years altogether with the county, it kind of puts you in knowing what you're doing."
The winner on the Democratic side of the treasurer's ballot will likely encounter another familiar face in the general election Wanda Mork, a deputy in the Treasurer's Office. Mork, a Republican, is unopposed in Tuesday's primary.
The nonpartisan race for justice of the peace includes three candidates but only two appear on the official ballot. The top two vote-getters will move on to the general election.
Havre Public School substitute teacher Ramon "Ray" Bergh and former Montana Highway Patrol officer Terry Stoppa are on the primary ballot.
Rose Lee Duran Winchell, a former justice of the peace at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, filed as a write-in candidate earlier this month. She is not on the ballot.
Bergh is a 56-year-old father of two who holds an associate's degree in business and a bachelor's in history, both from Montana State University-Northern. Prior to teaching, he spent 24 years as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and is also a former search and rescue diver for Hill County.
"I'm confident that I will prevail in the primary. I've always had a strong desire to see justice equally," he said.
"I view justice of the peace as a position which requires impartiality and fairness, responsibility and accountability," Bergh added. "A lot of being justice of the peace involves counseling. And that's a skill I still maintain."
Stoppa, also 56, has worked the last two years as a materials lab technician for the Montana Department of Transportation. But it's his three decades of law enforcement experience 26 years with the highway patrol, four years as a police officer in the U.S. Air Force, and a brief stint as Liberty County sheriff that, Stoppa said, qualify him for the post.
"I spent hundreds of hours in court. I'm familiar with a lot of the court documents and procedures, so my past experience would prepare me well for this capacity," he said.
"What I would bring is honesty, fairness, impartiality and integrity," Stoppa added. "I would weigh each case on its merit before passing a sentence."
Former Justice Carol Chagnon retired in April after 16 years on the bench. Her unexpired term is being filled by Lane Hauge, a Havre attorney. Havre City Judge Joyce Perszyk and Perry Miller, justice of the peace for Blaine County, are also chipping in, presiding over trials.
The remainder of the candidates in Tuesday's primary election are unopposed.
On the Democratic ticket, the following incumbents are running: Doug Kaercher for commissioner, Diane Mellem for clerk and recorder, Greg Szudera for sheriff, David Rice for county attorney, Shirley Isbell for county superintendent of schools, and Carol Bachini-Wood for public administrator.
Also on the Democratic ballot, Kathy Olson is running for county auditor. The incumbent, Mary Ann Trumpour, is not running.
On the Republican side, Byron Welter is running for commissioner, Gail Solomon for auditor, and Rozan Kerr for public administrator.
Primary winners move on to the Nov. 5 general election. All positions are for four years, except that of commissioner, which has a six-year term.