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County commissioner candidates address Democrats

The two Democrats running for Hill County commissioner made their case to their party this week on why they should win the June 5 primary.

Hill County Road and Bridge Department office manager Deborah Walker and Hill County farmer Mark Peterson each introduced themselves and answered questions from the audience at the Hill County Democrats meeting Tuesday in Havre.

Walker said her experience, in ranching, retail sales, public schools and the county department, all give her experience that would help her if elected, including with budgets and budget cuts and personnel and department issues.

She said the commission needs to be a team that puts their best abilities together to serve the public. She would do that for every part of the county, every resident and every community, Walker said.

"I will work hard for all of you without prejudging the issues, " she said. "Together, we can make a difference. "

Peterson said he always has had an interest in serving the county in which he has lived his entire life. He was a finalist in the process 22 years ago that selected Democrat Kathy Bessette as commissioner, and lost in the first race in which she ran to keep her position.

"And she has done an awesome job, " he added.

Peterson said his 40 years as a farmer, and his membership and participation in activities ranging from volunteer firefighter CPR instructor to advisory boards for Montana State University Extension, the Northern Agricultural Research Center and Montana State University-Northern show his interest, as well as experience, issues Hill County commissioners deal with.

He said some of the issues on which he wants to work include improving Hill County's communications and partnerships with Havre and other cities and counties and the state, as well as Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation; and preparing for the impact of developments of the Bakken oil formation.

"A lot of people don't think it will get here, but it only needs to get close, " he said.

He would also work at providing support for entities such as NARC, Northern, Beaver Creek Park, Hill County 4-H, the Boys & Girls clubs, the local museum, local schools and pushing for a 24-hour Port of Wild Horse on the Canadian border and a four-lane U. S. Highway 2.

When an audience member asked about the push to expand Highway 2, Walker said the only way to succeed is to convince the heads of the Montana Department of Transportation that upgrading the highway is as important as the projects those district heads support.

"Sometimes, the things you want to get done don't always happen, " she said.

Peterson said that, as commissioner, he would meet with senators and representatives in Washington to lobby for upgrading the highway, as well as in Helena, and work as a commissioner with the group already pushing for the upgrade.

"That is what I would do, work hard to get it, " he said.

When asked what is the future of Beaver Creek Park, Walker said that, as someone who uses and enjoys the park, she would work to make sure it remains.

She said she believes everyone should share equally in the cost of running the park, from grazers to cabin owners.

"We need to be equal, across the board, " she said.

Peterson said he would work closely with the park superintendent and the park board to find the best way to operate the park.

"If we're going to improve it, we've got to somehow pay for that, " he said. "We've just got to figure out ways of doing that, and maybe it means more volunteers, and, if that's what it takes, I'll be the first to sign up, " he said.

The race for the Democratic nomination for Hill County commissioner:

The candidates: Mark Peterson and Deborah Walker are running to replace Kathy Bessette, who is not running after 22 years in office.

The primary date: June 5

The term: Six years

What's next: The winner will face Republican candidate Debbie Rhines on Nov. 6.

Then: The winner in November will join Mike Wendland and Jeff LaVoi on the three-member commission.


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