Political Adversaries Face Off in Libby

By Beacon Staff

While the races for mayor in Kalispell and Columbia Falls are essentially settled, sparks may fly in Libby. Two political adversaries, Mayor Doug Roll and Councilor Allen Olsen, are squaring off this November.

Roll and Olsen have had a tumultuous relationship since the councilor was elected in November 2011.

While both men emphasized their respective platforms, including rebuilding Libby’s infrastructure and creating jobs, it didn’t take long for either to point out their opponents’ shortcomings.

“(Olsen) has a complete lack of knowledge of this city and how it works,” Roll said. “Most of what he’ll say (about me) will be made up. It’s all in his imagination.”

“I don’t like the politics in this town,” Olsen countered. “There are closed door meetings and no public input from the people … It’s high time we start doing things for Libby, not to Libby.”

Roll was first appointed to the Libby City Council in 2003 and later appointed mayor in 2008. He was then elected mayor in 2009. Roll is a mechanic by trade and owns DP Automotive on Education Way.

Olsen joined the council in 2012. He owns and operates Antler Tree Nursery along U.S. Highway 2, just south of Libby.

The location of Olsen’s business first sparked conflict between the mayor and councilor in the summer of 2012. Roll refused to put Olsen on any committees, alleging he lived outside of city limits. Olsen’s business is located just out of town, where he lives part of the year. Roll said that makes Olsen ineligible for office, but the councilor said he has rented a house in town since June 2010 and should be appointed to committees. Olsen said the mayor the was upset that he “ask(s) extra questions and (doesn’t) always go with the flow.”

A month later, after a series of meetings and newspaper articles, Roll appointed Olsen to a handful of boards.

Then, earlier this year, Olsen accused Roll of breaking state conflict-of-interest and ethics laws when DP Automotive fixed a city-owned truck for $289.20. Roll said he thought city employees had checked with other garages in the area before bring it to his shop and that the repair was an honest mistake. Olsen called it “arrogance” of the law. Roll eventually paid back the city $363.70 for two vehicles he had fixed in 2010 and 2013. Olsen filed a civil suit against him in district court, but the case was thrown out.

“He paid the city, I understand that, but he still broke the law,” Olsen said last week.

Roll said the conflicts between he and Olsen are a “side show” and in November all that will matter is his record. Roll said that since taking office, roads and sidewalks have been repaired and a $12.4 million water system improvement project has begun. If reelected, Roll said he wants to continue to improve Libby’s infrastructure and image to attract more business to the area. Lincoln County’s unemployment rate stood at 11.5 percent in May, the second highest in the state.

“I believe my achievements in the last five years have been good for the city,” Roll said. “I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep this job.”

But Olsen argued that the city’s roads and sidewalks need more work and that Roll has focused on unnecessary projects, including the new Riverfront Park. Olsen denied he is running because of his rift with the mayor.

“I want our town to become a community again,” he said. “It has nothing to do with a grudge, I just want to do what’s right.”

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