Wicks campaigns for Hill County Commission


February 17, 2020

Mark Wicks

Republican candidate Mark Wicks of Hill County is running for the Hill County Commission seat held by Democrat Mike Wendland.

"Our end of the county is really getting left behind, and I kind of decided that most of the county is probably in the same shape and I want to make sure that everyone in the county gets represented," Wicks said.

Wicks ran as a Libertarian in 2017 for the U.S. House and as a Republican for the Public Service Commission in 2018.

Wendland has not yet filed as a candidate for re-election.

Wicks said he is a native of Hill County, growing up and is living in northern Hill County on a farm that has been in his family since 1913. He added that one of the biggest problems he has seen in his part of the county has been the poor road conditions.

"When you live way out in the country you don't expect a lot of stuff because you are on the far end, but you do expect to have your roads good enough you can get your wheat and your cattle into town without hardship," he said.

He added that the poor road conditions are a hazard and eventually someone is going to get seriously hurt.

"That's been my experience with how it is now, but we can't put all the blame on the current commissioners, this has been a problem that's been in the making for 30-plus years," he said.

The roads should have been graveled every year, but because the county has not been doing proper maintenance repairing the roads is going to be much more difficult and expensive, he said.

He said that in the past, people in his area have reported the poor road conditions to the commissioners but nothing has been done. County commissioners are responsible for a number of different things in the county, but their main concern should be addressing the concerns of the people. He added that the roads are not the only concern of the county, but infrastructure in general needs to be invested in for county residents.

"I want them to know that there is going to be emphasis put on the infrastructure and trying to get the roads good again," Wicks said. "It doesn't matter what part of the county they are from."

In the past, when people have complained about infrastructure issues to the county commissioners, they're concerns have been heard but not listened to, he said. Most of the people's concerns are passed down the road, he added, although he noted funding is an issue.

"If we had lots of money, I'm sure the roads wouldn't be a problem," Wicks said. "We'd have them taken care of."

He said that he wants to go through the county's budget with a fine-tooth comb and try to weed out some of the extra expenses on items the county doesn't need. He added that he also wants to ensure the county is being treated fairly by the businesses and vendors it works with and make sure the county's equipment is being utilized to its full extent.

Most of the time, equipment, such as the county road equipment, is not being used, Wicks said, and that needs to change.

One issue the county does struggle with is funding, he said. The county doesn't have a lot of funding or resources for a number of projects, but the commissioners need to work to get the Legislature to send more money to county governments, he said.

He said that he decided to run for the office of county commissioner because he believes that, as a county commissioner, he can do the most good for the people in the county. But the road conditions in his part of the county are such a problem for the residents who live in that part of the county, he said, that he has been told by a number of his neighbors that if he didn't run, they would. He added that this is a clear indication something needs to change in county government.

The office of county commissioner is a six-year term, Wicks said. He added that he would have run for office sooner, but the seat in his district was not up for election since he has gotten into politics. 

He said that, in his previous campaigns, he has learned a lot about the issues on a state, federal and local level as well as making connections with people in the Legislature and other state offices. He added that because of those connections, he is confident he can get through the political gridlock and work closely with the state to get the most done for the county.

As county commissioner, a person is not only representing their part of the county, but the county as a whole, and if there is a problem in one part of the county there is probably a similar problem in another part of the county, he said.

"One of the things that bothers me in the county government is sometimes when things are being paid for by another organization, the money isn't looked after very closely," Wicks said.

He added that those are still people's tax dollars, even if it is coming from the state or federal government through agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency, and needs to be just as careful with federal and state funds as it is with county funds.

Some other issues also on the horizon for Hill County need to be addressed, such as the St. Mary Diversion project and invasive species, he said. He added that within the next six years grizzly bears, wolves and feral pigs will be a big issue in the county as well as maintaining and improving infrastructure.

He said he is also a good fit for the office because he has experience being involved in a number of different businesses, and being part of the entrepreneurial community. He said that he also attended and graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in technology education, which involves communication, transportation and manufacturing.

During his time at the university he also spent a semester abroad in Sweden and saw how other governments work and how it affected the people, he said.

"That was very interesting to see different ways of doing things," Wicks said. "... Just because we have done something one way forever doesn't mean we have to keep doing it that way."


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