The Lincoln County Commission seat representing District No. 3 (Eureka) is up for election this year. The candidates for commissioner are incumbent Mike Cole and Josh Letcher, both Republicans. The Western News emailed both candidates an identical list of questions. Their responses, lightly edited for style, are published below.
Please describe your public service experience.
Mike Cole: My public service background started way back in the mid 1960s to mid 1970s. Those were the 4-H years, always doing community projects. I wasnít involved in the pubic aspect of it again until I made Eureka my home in 1985. I gravitated to the fairgrounds to help and eventually became Chairman of the Board in 1998. I was Chair until being elected to the Board of Commissioners for Lincoln County in 2012. As Director of the Tobacco Valley Rodeo Association, I have also been able to produce two of the biggest events here in the County ó the TVRA Rodeo and The Bull Thing have put Eureka on the map and raised millions of dollars in economic activity for our community.
Josh Letcher: For most of my life I have been attending public meetings regarding timber sales, mining, recreation, development, forest planning, the Columbia Basin Treaty, state interests, county interests, and a lot of other public interests. I am a member of The Lincoln County Planning Board. I was elected to the Lincoln County Local Government Review Board. I am the Vice President of the Tobacco Valley Rod and Gun Club; I am a board member of the Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club, Montanans for Multiple Use -NLCC, and several other unincorporated groups. My knowledge and understanding gained from my experiences will benefit me as a commissioner and it will benefit all of Lincoln County.
Why are you running for commissioner?
Mike Cole: This goes back to why I ran the first time as well. It fits into all the things I do. The opportunity to serve the folks of Lincoln County at a high level is an honor and privilege. I believe I can make a difference in the future of our county. Just this morning I have talked to several different people about roads, airport, fairgrounds, construction, Port Authority, Tobacco Valley Industrial District, possible flooding, budget and trails. It is a fascinating position to have and I do enjoy this job.
Josh Letcher: I am running for Lincoln County Commissioner because I believe itís time for a positive change. Lincoln County Commissioner is not a job that I need, but a job that I want. I donít want to be important; I want to be helpful and work together with the citizens and the other leaders of Lincoln County to create positive change. I will work hard to bring good paying jobs back to Lincoln County. Along with my experience, I have a great ability to bring people together, Iím goal oriented, motivated, ambitious, level headed, and great at research and problem solving.
How do you view the role and purpose of the County Commission?
Mike Cole: My view of the Commission role is to be the anchor. The Commission sets the tone and expectation of how the County is perceived by the public, as well as State and Federal Agencies. The Commission drives the bus. As with most things there are some sharp turns and sudden stops, how you handle those situations is the most important part of being a Commissioner.
The purpose is more of where the bus is going. budget, public safety, and health are the main issues that we deal with. The advocacy of our many resources here in Lincoln County take up countless hours. From timber, mining, water and recreation, to trying to understand why 80 percent of our budget gets spent on public safety. Dealing with the issues of the Health Emergency in south Lincoln County have been complicated at best. In the north county we have had an explosion of housing. The process the Commission puts forth, has a great impact on the people of our communities.
Josh Letcher: I view the critical role of the county commissioners as the executives of the local government. They oversee county services, budgets, private land uses, ordinances, public works such as road maintenance, and they coordinate with the other local elected offices such as the Sheriff, Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer, etc.
The unofficial role of county commissioner comes with a lot of responsibility but very little authority. In this role the county commissioners work with the public, oversee community projects, attend public meetings, support state and federal representatives to bring back responsible federal land management, and work with residents and businesses to bringing jobs back to Lincoln County.
Which of your accomplishments, in public service or other aspects of life, can best attest to what you can offer Lincoln County residents as commissioner?
Mike Cole: The best accomplishment one can hope for is to make your community a better place to live. I think Iíve contributed and given a great deal. From time, money, blood and sweat. There are some people in each community that are the doers. I would like to think I fit in with those people who make things happen. I feel the 23 year run (and growing) we have had with The Bull Thing is one of the gifts to our area that exemplifies the commitment I have for getting the job done.
Josh Letcher: Since graduating from Lincoln County High School I have worked in the timber industry, oil fields, construction, development, real estate, and technology. I have owned and operated my own businesses for the past 15 years. As a business owner I have many responsibilities such as research, budgeting, employee management, public relations, and being responsible for my own actions.
I am a member of the Lincoln County Planning Board. I was elected to the Lincoln County Local Government Review Board. I am the Vice President of the Tobacco Valley Rod and Gun Club; I am a board member of the Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club, Montanans for Multiple Use - NLCC, and several other unincorporated groups.
Since I was a young child I have had an interest in public land use and resource management. For most of my life I have been attending public meetings regarding timber, mining, recreation, development and a lot of other public interests. I am not a paid advocate, I am a volunteer who puts in countless hours to support local organizations and groups who want to bring back our once vibrant economy. My knowledge and understanding gained from my experiences will benefit me as a commissioner and it will benefit all of Lincoln County.
What can you offer as commissioner that your opponent cannot?
Mike Cole: As current Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Lincoln County for the last four years I have brought to the Commission what I campaigned on, stability, accountability and experience. Due to the efforts of a lot of people at the county level, I have accomplished that. I believe the relationships I have established with fellow commissioners, state representatives, and various agency personnel sets me apart from someone new.
Josh Letcher: A) Iím technology savvy: In 2014 I was on the winning team for Glacier Start-Up-Weekend in Kalispell. Our team won the event with a website. The world is at your fingertips, utilize the information. B) Responsibility to the Voters of Lincoln County: I will keep the public informed. I will return phone calls and emails. If I donít have the answer to your question, I will actually research it or direct you to the person who can answer it. C) Fiscal Responsibility: I will use the in-house county resources and do as much of my own research as possible before I pay outside resources excessive amounts of money. If the in-house resources and my time have been exhausted I may consider outside resources at a reasonable rate. D) Experience: I have been involved for over 20 years. I comment on USFS projects, attend public meetings, and volunteer a lot of time to bringing jobs back. I knew what this job entailed before I filed for County Commissioner. E) Attitude: We need to relieve our communities of the doom and gloom that has set in. If the citizens and all of the leaders of Lincoln County work together we can return to prosperity. Together we can and will make Lincoln County great again!
If you are elected as commissioner, what are the first 3-5 things you will do?
Mike Cole: I will continue to work on the mandate of budget efficiency; I will continue to work on natural resource issues; I will continue to work on improving the countyís economy; I will continue to work on making the county accountable to the citizens of Lincoln County; I have many projects in motion that I would like to continue moving forward on.
Josh Letcher: First of all, I will address everybody with honesty and integrity. Secondly, I will have a backbone. Regardless of your political views I will adhere to my conservative principles. Unlike the other candidate I did not switch parties; I was a Republican long before registering for this election. I will stand with my convictions and faith. I will not blow with the wind, lower my standards, misinform or buy votes. Third, I will promote family values, community and responsibility. Fourth, I will be willing to listen and learn to new ideas and work hard together with others. Together we will make Lincoln County great again.