Primary candidate profiles - Montana House District 61 and 62
Primary elections for Montana House of Representatives are coming up June 5.
Park County has two seats in the running — House Districts 61 and 62. HD 61 represents Park and Sweet Grass counties. HD 62 is centered around Livingston.
Only three Republicans are running for HD 61. Because no Democrats are in the race for that district, the winner of the June primary goes on to be the uncontested candidate for the November election.
The Republicans running for HD 61 are Dan Burmeister of Big Timber, and Debra Lamm and Alan Redfield, both of Paradise Valley.
The HD 62 race is contested between a Democrat and two Republicans. The Republicans are incumbent Dan Skattum and newcomer Juanita Lux. The HD 62 primary election will determine which Republican will face Democrat Reilly Neill in the fall.
This week — the week of May 14 — The Enterprise ran a profile of each of the Republican candidates in the HD 61 and HD 62 races. A profile of Neill ran earlier this spring.
Next week, The Enterprise will run a question-and-answer-style articles in which each Republican as well as Neill are given the opportunity to respond in writing to a series of questions.
HOUSE DISTRICT 61 PRIMARY CANDIDATES
Candidate proposes lower business taxes, less government spending
Name: Alan Redfield
Running for: Montana House District 61
Family: Married to Laurie Redfield; two adult daughters
Occupation: Cattle rancher, former Park High School teacher
Education: Bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Montana State University
Relevant experience: Former Arrowhead School Board member, member of the Park County Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau, small businessman
As a longtime cattle rancher in Paradise Valley, Alan Redfield wants agriculture to have representation in Helena.
“I believe the ranching industry in Park and Sweet Grass counties has a huge impact and it needs a voice,” Redfield said.
Redfield and his wife, Laurie, have spent 35 years ranching on Laurie’s family’s land. Agriculture plays an important role in the state as a whole, and it “needs a stronger voice” in Helena as it faces various challenges, he said.
Among those challenges are ensuring protection of private property rights in light of future energy development, such as transmission lines, if eminent domain were in play, he said. Other issues include working on decreasing the burden of the business equipment tax, which can hurt businesses such as those in agriculture where equipment costs can be high even when businesses’ profits are low, he said.
Redfield has one other major priority for Helena.
“The other thing is the budget,” he said. “I’d like to see the state keep their overhead as low as possible.”
The state needs to spend wisely, and that includes using money from the federal government judiciously, he said. State leaders need to avoid using federal funds to pay for hiring employees or ongoing programs, Redfield said. Figuring out how to do that is perhaps what he would look forward to most, he said.
“Being able to work with other legislators to balance the budget of the state, and not using federal funds to do it — not using one-time money,” he said.
As a former educator, he also would like work on education.
“We’re not training these kids for the jobs or career paths that are out there right now,” Redfield said. Most high schools prepare students for college, but not all teenagers need or want to go on to college, he said. Instead, he’d like to see that state expand vocational program offerings and apprenticeship programs.
The state also needs to increase job retraining opportunities for adults, he said.
Montana leaders also need to focus on natural resource development during the 2013 legislative session, he said.
One thing he would like Montana to consider is natural resource development permitting processes that are tailored to specific areas, he said. For example, one area might have a particular concern or need that isn’t much of a factor in another part of the state. Consequently, the permitting process for a given area should be streamlined to focus less on factors that aren’t big issues for that locale while still adequately addressing those concerns that are relevant for a particular locale, he said.
He looks forward to serving the community if he’s elected, he said.
“I just want to work really hard for the people in rural Park and Sweet Grass counties … they’re my friends and my neighbors,” he said.
Experience in business and law will serve her well, Lamm says
Name: Debra Lamm
Running for: Montana House District 61
Family: Married to Joe Lamm
Occupation: Co-owner of TYL Enterprises Inc.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education from Northern Illinois University, master’s degree in business administration from Lake Forest Graduate School in Illinois, juris doctorate from Stetson University College of Law in Florida, attended the University of Wisconsin
Relevant experience: Small business owner, worked as an issue advocate for the Montana Family Foundation during the 2011 Montana Legislature to promote education issues
From state finances to education, there’s work to be done in Helena, Paradise Valley resident Debra Lamm says.
And with her career experiences plus her recent work as an issues advocate during the 2011 Legislature, she’s ready “to do the work for other Montanans,” Lamm said.
“My entire background has lent itself to the work to be done,” Lamm said.
She has a career history that includes working in business plus she and her husband, Joe, have a small business of their own, TYL Enterprises Inc. Their company includes her husband’s electrical engineering consulting as well as the snow removal work they do. She also practiced law for several years while living in Florida.
“The legal background definitely helps prepare me for the Legislature,” she said.
She more recently worked as an issue advocate for the Montana Family Foundation during the 2011 Legislature.
Lamm, who moved from Spokane, Wash., to Park County in 2007, said priorities for her include working to keep taxes low and examining the state’s budget. Her approach would be to determine what functions of government are essential “and fund them accordingly.”
“We need to take a hard look at our budget and our taxes and where they’re being collected from,” she said.
The work that needs to be accomplished during the 2013 Legislature also includes addressing Montana’s education system, Lamm said.
She would like to see the state expand its curriculum offerings, including incorporating more technology into rural schools, she said. She also wants Montana to give its communities more local control over schools.
Montana also should embrace charter schools, she said.
Charter schools receive public money but have flexibility regarding some academic regulations and requirements. For instance, a community might decide it wants a school with a project-based approach to learning or a focus on agriculture.
Such schools operate more like a business in some regards, including having a business plan or “charter,” Lamm said. In exchange for flexibility, they are required to meet particular individual objectives or deliverables, much like a business.
“It’s got built-in measurements, timelines and goals,” she said of a school’s charter document.
Lamm said she doesn’t envision an overhaul of Montana’s system. Rather she wants to see charter schools established where they are appropriate and where communities see a need for them.
“I think we need more options,” Lamm said of her interest in charter schools. “Right now we’re fairly limited in the state education system.”
Private schools are out of reach for families who can’t afford their tuition, she said. But many students slip through the cracks in the existing education system and would benefit from charter schools that could be tailored to fit students’ needs, she said.
“Not everyone fits into the one-size-fits-all system,” she said.
State schools also need to do a better job of offering the kind of training that will prepare them for the jobs available in Montana, Lamm said. For example, she wants Montana to provide learning opportunities that would equip a student to seek a job in natural resource development or have schools teach students the kind of technology skills they will need in the workplace, she said.
Lamm said that as part of her campaigning efforts, she’s been talking with area residents about their concerns as well as researching issues.
“You can look at the past and where we’ve been, but what’s important is where are we going in the future,” she said.
Burmeister sees great possibilities for Park, Sweet Grass counties
Name: Dan Burmeister
Running for: Montana House District 61
Family: Married to Glenna Burmeister; two young children
Occupation: Contracting and real estate development, owns Burmeister Enterprises
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business and engineering from Northern Arizona University
Relevant experience: Background in business and economic development
When Dan Burmeister thinks about House District 61, which includes both Park and Sweet Grass counties, he thinks of possibilities.
“I see the growth in the area,” said Burmeister, who lives south of Big Timber. “The potential is just phenomenal.”
Burmeister grew up in Big Timber, then went away for college and to begin his career. He returned to Montana after spending years working in engineering for companies including General Motors. The reason he came back is simple, he said.
“Big Timber, Montana,” he said.
“We saw growth and we still see growth within the area, and we want to see our small community grow,” he said.
He’d like to see Big Timber model its growth on what Livingston has experienced, he said.
Growth in the local areas is key to helping keep taxes down, Burmeister said. The bigger the base, the less individuals must contribute, he said.
“What we need to do is expand the tax base, and that’s by increasing housing, getting more people moving into the area,” he said.
For Livingston, that expansion would be built upon the city’s connection to Yellowstone National Park, he said.
“You need to make this worldwide,” Burmeister said of increasing tourism to the park and the areas around it.
That means building new hotels and drawing in more people, he said. He recognizes that creating development ahead of the need to accommodate increased crowds is something of a “chicken and egg, cart before the horse” philosophy, but the investment would help bring people to YNP and surrounding areas, Burmeister said.
Burmeister said he has a healthy dose of optimism to go along with his belief in growth even though he acknowledges that now is a difficult financial time and “we’re all in the doldrums right now.”
“Optimism and growth go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other,” he said.
To promote growth, he would draw on his background in business and economic development.
“You look and you see (that ) a town, a county and a state is no different than a big business,” he said.
His other interests and priorities for the Legislature include improving the opportunities for natural resource development as well as improving Montana schools, which could be accomplished in part with help from revenues brought in by natural resource development, he said.
Burmeister said he’s also running in order for Big Timber and Sweet Grass County to have a say in the Legislature. Sweet Grass County’s state senator for the district, which also represents Park County, lives in Park County. Without a House member from Sweet Grass County, that leaves his county with no direct representation in Helena, Burmeister said.
“There needs to be a voice in Helena saying, ‘This is what Big Timber needs, this is what Sweet Grass County needs,’” he said.
But he also would stay in touch with his Park County and Livingston constituents and be sure to bring their concerns to the Legislature as well, he said.
HOUSE DISTRICT 62 PRIMARY CANDIDATES
Lux ready to contribute lifetime experiences to Legislature
Name: Juanita Lux
Running for: Montana House District 62
Family: Two adult children
Occupation: Retired from printing and graphic arts
Education: Attended University of Cincinnati and Xavier University in Ohio; currently attending Montana State University
Relevant experience: Career background in business
With a lifetime of diverse experiences behind her, Juanita Lux says she’s ready to contribute her knowledge base to Montana’s 2013 Legislature.
“I’m a person who believes I can do something,” Lux said of why she’s running to represent the Livingston district.
Lux, who is originally from Ohio and moved to Park County more than 25 years ago, said she’s a conservative person who has had a variety of experiences throughout her lifetime that would allow her to bring a diverse range of perspectives to Helena.
“I’ve been a married mother, a single mother — just about all of it, and I’ve come through it all,” Lux said.
Her experiences would be particularly valuable when it comes to reviewing legislation related to women’s issues, such as those that touch on raising strong families, child care and schools, she said.
“I’m a family advocate,” she said.
Lux said part of her interest in advocacy for families also includes the belief that marriage means one man and one woman.
She’s also had a career that includes sales and a background in graphic arts and printing, which would help her to be knowledgeable about business issues that state legislators deal with, she said. She is retired now, although she is taking some classes in new media and web design at Montana State University. No longer working means she would be able to devote the time needed to serve in Helena, she said.
“I have the time now — when you’re working, you don’t have the time to think about those things,” she said.
Lux said she watched bills making their way through the 2011 Montana Legislature and was by surprised by some of the outcomes. She also worked with a website called Montana Laws to post summaries of some of the key bills coming through the legislative process.
“I was struck by the laws vetoed by the governor that the people wanted,” she said.
Another priority for her as a legislator would be to look at how Montana law addresses medical marijuana, she said. Her concerns about the issue include that allowing medical marijuana may be contrary to what the majority of people want, plus permitting use of the drug could have a detrimental impact on the state’s children, she said.
“I don’t want to see young people get caught in it,” Lux said of the drug.
Another issue she would have reservations about supporting is increased gun control, she said. Her father was a president of a National Rifle Association chapter in Ohio, she said.
“I’m not for gun control at all,” she said.
Lux said she hesitates to definitively weigh in on other issues that come before the Legislature because while she might have opinion on a subject now, legislators must consider the actual bills proposed to them. And getting things done in Helena often requires compromise, listening to others and looking at a picture bigger than just one thought on one matter, she said.
“I would hate to comment on other things I haven’t looked at specifically because I know that it would just be an opinion, and I don’t know the whole situation,” she said.
Incumbent Skattum wants to continue being conservative voice in Helena
Name: Dan Skattum
Running for: State House of Representatives District 62
Occupation: Works on highway maintenance for the Montana Department of Transportation
Family: Married to Lauretta Skattum; three grown children
Education: Graduated from Park High School, attended Montana State University, fire and emergency medical training
Relevant experience: HD 62 representative for the 2011 Legislature, former member and officer of the Park County Rural Fire District No. 1, engine captain for wildland fire teams, emergency medical services instructor, 15 years working with the public while being employed with the state Department of Transportation
Montana’s Legislature needs more conservatism to guide it, says Dan Skattum.
Skattum, the incumbent in the Montana House District 62 race, says he’s looking for another term in the Legislature to continue adding his perspective to the law-making body.
“For too long, people like me have not been in government,” Skattum said.
Some people, many of whom are in government, believe government should fix everything, he said. He, on the other hand, wants to see government downsized and simplified.
“We have to rein in the excess stuff,” Skattum said, “especially in light of what’s happened at the federal level.”
Federal spending keeps increasing, and he doesn’t want to see that trend mirrored in Montana’s budget, he said.
“With our federal debt, Montana is going to have to rely more on Montana,” Skattum said.
The current state system of budgeting tends to build budgets based on the past year’s figures and include expectation of some kind of increase, he said. The system doesn’t encourage evaluating the past year’s budget in light of current circumstances or situations to determine whether past expenditures or programs are still needed or whether changes should be made, he said.
“Right now it’s just kind of a do-as-you’ve-done (approach),” he said.
If elected to another term in Helena, he would promote a “zero base” approach to the state budget, meaning each component of the financial plan would be evaluated, Skattum said.
His other priorities include working to lower the business equipment tax as well as encouraging wise development of natural resources, Skattum said. Legislators need to work on removing “roadblocks” from the natural resource development process so that developers can get to work on projects, he said.
Natural resource developers “are happy to take care of our environment,” so they don’t object to responsible development guidelines, he said. What they do object to, though, is when regulators throw in unexpected roadblocks of some sort that stall the process, he said. “It’s the different hoops they have to jump through” that frustrate developers, he said.
Legislators need to add predictability to the resource development process, he said.
While he still has much to learn about the Legislature, his already having served a term would be a benefit to constituents, he said.
“I will still be learning, but it won’t be as steep a learning curve,” he said.