BUTTE – In a recent one-hour conversation, former Montana Gov. Judy Martz, 65, quotes the Bible, her husband and Abraham Lincoln. She reminisces about life in the governor’s mansion, her Olympic Games experience and her decision to enter politics.
But she speaks most passionately about her religion, and it is fitting that she now spends much of her time doing just that.
In the four years since she left the highest office in Montana, Martz has routinely addressed Christian organizations throughout the country.
“I speak about Christ,” she said. “I speak about how he changed my life, and I encourage others to find peace in their heart through him.” She is also part of a network that prays at locations across Montana.
“We pray for this state and this nation. We go physically to the borders of this state, at its boundaries, and pray for the will of the father to be done.”
And while Martz tailors her schedule around the prayer and lecture circuit, she spends the majority of her days with her husband, Harry, at their home west of Butte. Harry retired last year after he sold Martz Disposal, the business he created and ran with his wife and son for 37 years, to his local competitor.
Now, the two often babysit their grandchildren Remy, 5, and 10-month-old, Rogan. It’s a more relaxing life than Martz has known in some time.
“I get to sleep in a lot later than I used to,” she said. “I love that.”
But she is far from your average retired grandma. Martz remains involved in a number of local and national companies and organizations.
She sits on the boards of Maternal Life International, University of Montana Western, Big Sky State Games and TASER International, the company that manufacturers non-lethal electrical shock equipment to law enforcement, the military and private individuals.
Martz meets at TASER’s Scottsdale, Ariz., headquarters for board meetings and touts the company’s products around the country.
“Their products save the lives of law enforcement,” she said. “And I truly love (law enforcement and emergency responders) for everything they did for me while I was in office.”
Martz, a Republican, said she has not been politically active since she decided not to run for a second term as governor in 2005.
But she said her four years in the state’s top seat was the thrill of a lifetime, although it wasn’t a lifelong goal.
“I never in a million years imagined I’d be governor,” she said. “It never even crossed my mind.” But she knows her legacy will forever be linked to her years in Helena.
“More than the Olympics, more than anything,” she said. “No doubt about it.”
Martz still has scars from that term, though, especially because of the way she feels that she was mistreated by the news media.
She bristles at what she felt were misquotes and small missteps blown out of proportion.
But she says her faith helped pull her through — getting her out of the office as the same person she was before she went in.
“Those things can really destroy who you are,” she said. “But it didn’t damage me. I know who I am, and I am honest, I am morally right, and I tell the truth.”
She remembers the difficult decisions but doesn’t lose sleep over them.
Her 2001 decision to not extend unemployment benefits for Montana Resources miners who were laid off the previous summer was not a popular decision locally, but one she stands behind.
She said a number of other companies had gone under earlier that year, and it would not have been fair to extend the insurance only for Butte businesses.
“It was the right thing to do,” she said. “I was the governor of Montana, not the governor of Butte.”
Looking back, she is most proud of her fiscal decisions — turning a deficit into a surplus while reducing taxes, increasing education funding and straightening out the budget.
“We did what we said we would do,” Martz said. “And I’m extremely proud of that.”
Martz sees a lot of herself reflected in the younger Sarah Palin, Alaska’s first female governor and the vice presidential candidate on John McCain’s failed ticket last year.
“Like me, she is a woman of faith,” Martz said. “And like me, she has been attacked.”
Martz says she plans to meet Palin in the coming months.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
State Sen. Dave Lewis was the budget director in Marc Racicot’s cabinet and remembers his first meeting with Martz.
“Gov. Racicot called me in and told me I needed to come into the governor’s mansion,” he said.
Racicot introduced him to Martz, who was being considered for lieutenant governor on the ticket.
“I told him that she was really an impressive gal,” Lewis said. “The only thing that concerned me was a lack of government background.”
Racicot told Lewis that did not concern him.
“He told me she really brought something to the ticket, that she could communicate with working-class Montanans better than anybody.”
Martz said that interacting with citizens across Montana was her favorite part of her time in office.
“I miss just talking to folks,” she said. “And I miss having the ability to stand up against a bill I don’t believe in.”
Martz said she doesn’t foresee another run for office, but she hasn’t ruled it out.
“I’ll have to pray on it long and hard before I make a decision,” she said.
Even if she doesn’t run again and continues her life as a relaxed grandma, Martz said she is proud of her life and her ability to step up and be accounted for when the state needed her.
“I’m as common a person as you’ll find,” she said. “But ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they are prepared for it.”