Realtors Hire Former Bozeman Legislator as Lobbyist

By Beacon Staff

The Northwest Montana Association of Realtors has hired former state lawmaker John Sinrud as its new government affairs director, making him the new point person for dealing with municipalities throughout the valley when it comes to land use regulations.

The job was previously held by George Culpepper, Jr., who moved to the Flathead Building Association as its government affairs director in February.

Sinrud was a three-term Bozeman Republican legislator and chaired the House Appropriations Committee during the infamous 2007 session. He also previously owned a design and land use planning firm, an experience that Sinrud believed led to his hiring.

“My job is to inform our members about what’s going on with land use regulations around the valley,” Sinrud said. “They brought me here for my expertise and skills.”

Sinrud takes up the job at a time when business and development groups are taking a more active hand in local government, as groups like NMAR and the FBA perceive an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment. Sinrud attended Whitefish’s June 15 city council meeting dealing with proposed lakeshore regulations, but he has yet to take positions on such issues. That will be decided in coming weeks by NMAR’s board of directors, which Sinrud said will direct him as to which positions to take on various growth-related issues throughout the valley.

Sinrud also becomes the local lobbyist for Realtors in the midst of a deep housing slump, and in a region of Montana hit the hardest by job losses, foreclosures and the broader economic slowdown. But he said he was undeterred by the recession, and instead would stay focused on helping NMAR become poised to thrive when the economy eventually rebounds.

“The industry, as a whole, needs to have a good product to sell,” Sinrud said. “If we are increasing and encouraging individuals to purchase real estate in this area, and move up to this area, then we’re doing our job.”

“The market will definitely bounce back and it’s a great place to live,” he added.

The often rowdy nature of public meetings in the Flathead is also unlikely to be a deterrent to Sinrud, who is no stranger to rough-and-tumble politics at the state level. Sinrud was among the House Republican leaders in the 2007 session who orchestrated the GOP’s move to break the state budget bill into eight parts, a decision which brought negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over the budget to a standstill and forced the Legislature to adjourn with its work left undone. Gov. Brian Schweitzer was able to draw enough votes from moderate Republican representatives to eventually pass a budget in a special session.

Though he chose not to seek reelection in 2008, while Sinrud held public office he was one of Schweitzer’s harshest critics. When the state Board of Architecture ordered Sinrud to quit his design firm for practicing architecture without a license in 2007, Sinrud reportedly charged that he was being politically targeted by Schweitzer’s administration. Schweitzer dismissed Sinrud’s accusation.

Last year, Sinrud and former Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee formed a non-profit advocacy group called “Western Tradition Partnership,” which supported developing natural resources and protecting private property rights. The group also reportedly had some ties to Montana’s right-to-work movement, which sought to ban workplaces that make union membership a condition of employment. Sinrud said he no longer has any ties to Western Tradition Partnership.

“I am moving on and upward,” he added.

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