Before the mayoral candidates spoke at Thursday’s city election candidate forum at the Havre High School Theatre, the audience members heard from five City Council candidates, all of whom spoke without opponents, with a common theme of working together for the betterment of the city.
Four of the candidates are running unnopposed and gave short introductory speeches. In Ward 4, two candidates new to running for office, Republican Matt Boucher and Democrat Karen Datko, are facing off in the Nov. 5 election for the four-year term.
Datko, citing previous obligations, declined to attend the forum.
Boucher said Thursday he has no experience in politics, but he wants to serve the city.
“I’m interested in politics and doing what I can to help Havre be the place it should be,” he said.
When asked by the moderator, Havre High history teacher John Ita, what he considers the biggest issues facing the city, he said work needs to be done to improve the city streets, and that that issue is the one he heard most from people in Ward 4 while he was campaigning.
“Obviously, the first priority for everybody is the state of the roads,” Boucher said. “But the other council members, they drive down the same roads we all are, so I’m pretty sure its a strong uphill battle, to say that I’m going to get all the roads in Havre fixed, but it’s something I think we ought to look at, address to the best of our ability on the council.”
Boucher said he supports a proposal to make city elections nonpartisan, saying it could bring many more people to the table in city elections.
“We’re not dealing with partisan issues here on the council, and it doesn’t make sense to continue … partisan elections,” he said.
On several issues, he said he didn’t know enough to make comments.
“I’m inexperienced, but I’m willing to step up to the plate and deliver as best I can,” he said.
Terry Lilletvedt, the unnopposed Democratic candidate in Ward 1, also said she has little political experience, aside from her work getting the creation of a mosquito control district on the ballot 10 years ago. She has served as chair of the district board since the voters approved the district, she said, and is very happy to be associated with the district and pleased with how the effort turned out.
“I have limited political experience so I’m not up here to tell you I know it all or have done it all in any way shape or form … ,” she said. “While I don’t have any great political experience, I do know that I owe this city a great debt of gratitude for having grown up here, the wonderful people who live here, all of the people who have influenced me and helped me.
“I hope that by being on City Council, I can contribute something back, and I believe public service is important,” she said, adding that she is not bringing any issues or agendas to the council.
Democrat Jay Pyette, who was appointed to the seat vacated when Ward 3 councilman Rick Dow resigned to move to Minnesota and is running for a four-year term, said he has spent the first part of his term learning how the council operates, learning the ropes.
“On the issues that I don’t know enough about, I ask, and everybody’s very willing to help,” he said.
Pyette, an English and drama teacher at Havre High and founder and artistic director of Montana Actors’ Theatre, said he hopes his background in both education and the arts will help him bring a unique perspective to the council.
“What I’ve found since I’ve gotten on the council is that this is a great group of people who have very like-minded goals and a variety of backgrounds and a variety of knowledge,” he said. “And everybody is bringing something different to the table, and … it’s a pretty well-rounded group and we are able to get things done.”
Democrat Janet Trethewey, running unopposed in her bid for a second term representing Ward 2, said the council has done some important work in the last few years, balancing the budget, settling a lawsuit over annexation and moving forward with that process, and ending a lawsuit the city filed against the county about funding the city-owned community pool, getting county funding coming back to that.
She said she chaired the committee appointed to deal with issues arising from the regulation of medical marijuana.
“Ultimately, the feds solved our problem for us and we didn’t have to proceed as we had thought we would, but I don’t think the time was wasted,” Trethewey said. “We heard from the community, and hearing from the community is always a good thing.”
Trethewey said the area on which she has spent most of her time since being elected to the council — and for which she is most proud — relates to the safety committee that deals with city employee safety.
“Together, the committee has worked to keep workman’s comp claims low, which means our employees are safe and injury-free, and our taxpayers are paying the lowest insurance rates for workman’s comp insurance in the state of Montana,” she said.
Trethewey said she wants to expand that, working with the city’s insurance carrier to set up voluntary wellness programs for city employees and their spouses.
“Which translates into healthier employees and lower premium costs for the city, and that makes good economic sense,” she said.
Trethewey said she serves the entire city, and listens to people who talk to her and tries to address their issues.
“I listen to the issues that come before the council with an open mind and approach them with common sense,” she said.
Democrat Allen “Woody” Woodwick, who is running for the remaining two years of the seat Dow left when he resigned, said he has worked with a wide variety of people in the 12 years he already has served on the council.
“I’ve even picked up a few things,” he said.
Woodwick said the most important thing he has learned is that “the city rolls along and progresses a whole lot easier, and that makes it smoother and actually cheaper,” when people work together.
“I’m not going to try to say that we’re always going to agree, but if you’re willing to come to the table with an open mind … ,” he said, “maybe we can compromise and work together and work for the betterment of our community.
“If you bring a gigantic ego and a my way or the highway to the table, it’s just going to jam things up, and that’s just going to cost the city in more ways than one,” he said.