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Teske named to Lincoln County Board of Commissioners

by DERRICK PERKINS
Editor | July 23, 2021 7:00 AM

Brent Teske will succeed Mark Peck as the Libby representative to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners Jerry Bennett (D-2) and Josh Letcher (D-3) voted unanimously July 21 to make Teske a colleague. Teske, a longtime fixture in Libby, currently serves as the city’s mayor, a position he has held since 2016. He previously sat on Libby City Council.

“He’s been in local government,” Letcher said, explaining the decision. “He’s very fluent in county business.”

In his day job, Teske, a Navy veteran and former city police officer, works as the county’s emergency management chief.

Teske was one of three candidates given to commissioners as a possible replacement for Peck, who announced his resignation in late May. Under Montana Code Annotated, local officials turn to the central committee of the political party of the outgoing commissioner to find a replacement. County Republicans were tasked with finding a slate of three candidates, though the final choice was left in the hands of commissioners.

Kenny Rayome Jr., water treatment plant operator for Libby, and local businessman Jeff Forster rounded out the shortlist. Bennett and Letcher lauded all three for their qualifications.

“It would have been a whole lot easier process if everybody that signed up wasn’t so qualified,” Letcher said. “It’s a matter of picking the best one out of a bunch of really good ones.”

“All of the candidates, any one of them could have fit the role,” Bennett said.

Teske will serve as an appointed commissioner until November 2022, when both his seat and Bennett’s seat will appear on the ballot. Were Teske to run for and secure reelection, he would finish out the remaining four years of Peck’s term.

While pleased with the outcome, Bennett said the process could use improvement. The directions given to the party central committee by Montana law are vague, he said. Bennett also would like to have seen a deeper pool of candidates.

Under the rules, the committee must present three names. Were commissioners to reject all three, the party would return with three more names. Then commissioners would select from among the six candidates.

“I can tell you I’m not really satisfied with the way that it is in the [Montana Code Annotated],” Bennett said.

A past state legislator, Bennett planned to speak with his former colleagues about amending the section of state code.

“I think I’ll talk to some of my friends who are still left there and see if we can’t do some adjustments to that process,” he said. “The thing is, it’s something that’s not used very often and so — even as a commissioner, even as a legislator — I had really never looked the process up because I had no reason to. It needs some tweaking.”

The Libby seat on the board of commissioners opened in early June. Peck’s resignation was effective June 4. He was just a few months into his second term when he announced his departure, taking a new position with the Lincoln County Port Authority focused on public and private sector collaboration on forestry efforts.

Bennett said he and Letcher created an ad hoc interview committee composed of residents from each of the three county districts to aid in the final selection. Outside opinions were not necessary, Bennett said, but helpful in making a determination.

“I, personally, want to thank Jeff for his involvement and Brent and Kenny,” Bennett said. “Each of them brought many things to the table and, like [Letcher] said, it was kind of an excruciating decision.”