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Why am I a candidate for Hill County Commissioner?

Hi, I’m Les Odegard, independent candidate for Hill County Commissioner. Seems like this question is the top question I am asked. Sometimes it’s more like “why would you ever want to be commissioner?” I see this position as an opportunity to continue serving a community that welcomed me in 20 years ago. One that I have made my home. Throughout the past 20 years I have served on the 4-H Foundation Board, Crimestoppers, Havre Wrestling Club, Havre Chamber Ag Committee, Havre Public School Board, currently serving my 11th year on the Blue Pony Booster Club, and fourth year on the Business Advisory Board for Montana State University-Northern. I have volunteered to coach youth baseball, basketball and wrestling throughout the years. The past five years, through Fifth Avenue Christian Church, I have facilitated Grief Share classes helping people understand the grieving process. Being a part of this community is very important to me.

For the past 20 years, I have served farmers, ranchers and business owners of Hill County in analyzing their budgets and advising them on their business decisions. I have 20 years of experience building relationships to understand each customers business. This experience will be invaluable in analyzing Hill County budgets, asking questions and giving input on how we can operate efficiently and still provide county services. I will also build relationships with all county departments. My education with degrees in finance, accounting and economics has taught me all about numbers but also taught me how national events can influence our local economy. We are heading into trying times that will benefit from my experience and education. The first month in office I will explore the ability to hire a full time grant writer for the county. This position would go after federal and state grant funding to support our budgets. There are millions of dollars in the system available to rural counties such as ours for multiple projects. I know this position can pay for itself through the grant funding. We can also make this position available to the City of Havre, MSU-Northern, Chippewa Cree Nation and others through a cost sharing agreement if they would want to.

Roads, roads, roads! I have been told maintaining county roads is the main purpose of county commissioners. I would disagree and tell you retaining employees and hiring good employees is the main purpose. Counties cannot carry out the services they provide without skilled people to do the task. This is true across all departments of the county. People do not like paying taxes but they really don’t like paying taxes for services they do not receive or receive poorly. How do we work to keep trained employees; Increase pay? Keep good health benefits? Flexible hours? Retain service years over departments? A combination of these benefits? Something else? Now is the time to have open conversations with our employees. I promise to encourage conversations, listen to all viewpoints, ask questions and be fair minded in considering others concerns.

Why am I running as an independent for Hill County Commissioner? The commissioner position does not have legislative powers. Commissioners are stewards, fiduciaries of taxpayer funds following state law. It is the commissioners responsibility to make sure those funds are managed efficiently, effectively and equitably. Yes, commissioners have discretionary powers to increase taxes in small amounts but even discretionary powers are limited by state law. There are 16 counties in Montana with elected county positions being non-partisan. I believe Hill County should move to non-partisan positions for elected officials and I ask your support for this by voting for me this fall.

As your Hill County commissioner, I promise to have an open ear, open mind and open heart for all people. I will make sound, logical decisions and promote transparency in everything we do. Did you know the commissioners have a website where they can post agendas and minutes of committee meetings? Yep, and they have posted one time in the last five years. Transparency is important as taxpayers have a right to know what is going on with their funds.

I do want to serve as your District 2 Hill County Commissioner. I would appreciate your vote for me, Les Odegard, Nov, 8.


Les Odegard is an independent candidate for Hill County Commission.


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