As Downey Steps Down, Eight People Seek Vacancy on Lincoln County Commission

Troy commissioner announced earlier this summer he was stepping aside for health reasons

By Justin Franz

Six weeks after Lincoln County Commissioner Ron Downey announced he was stepping down from his post due to declining health, eight people, including a former mayor of Troy and a current state representative, are now stepping up to fill his vacancy.

Downey surprised many in the county and Troy, the district he represents, when he announced on June 4 that he would resign on Aug. 1. In his letter to the commission he said it had been a great honor to serve the county but he believed he would be unable to fulfill those duties in the coming months and years.

Now, the commission will appoint someone to finish out Downey’s term and will conduct interviews on July 22 and 23. In late June, nine people sent the commission letters expressing interest in being appointed to the vacancy. One candidate, Dan Burns, later withdrew his name from consideration, according to Lincoln County Executive Assistant Bill Bischoff.

In his letter to the commission, three-term state Rep. Jerry Bennett touted his legislative and business experience as why he should be selected to replace Downey. Bennett has lived in the county for 54 years and owns JMF Services, a local plumbing company, and said that experience has given him the “opportunity to have a finger on the pulse of the community of South Lincoln County.” He has also served as the president of the Libby Chamber of Commerce and is one of the founding members of the Fisher River Volunteer Fire Co.

Just months after he lost reelection in Troy’s mayor’s race, Anthony Brown is again seeking office. Brown, who is currently a supervisor at Techlaw Inc., has held the top job in Troy twice; once in the 1970s and again from 2012 to 2014, when he was appointed by the city council to replace Donald Banning, who was recalled in May 2012.

Matt Bowser has spent much of the last decade working for the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service and is currently the community forest watch coordinator for the Yaak Valley Forest Counil. Besides his experience in forestry, Bowser said his upbringing in western Pennsylvania would be a valuable trait to have on the commission because the challenges in that area are not unlike the ones Lincoln County faces; “I know what it’s like for a community to be stripped to its core values and then embrace its rich history and worth ethic to pull itself up by the bootstraps and begin the thrive again.”

Rhonda Cargill is a scuba instructor and was once in the United States Navy. She unsuccessfully ran for the Senate District 1 seat in 2010. She touted her experience as a wife, mother and volunteer as reason to appoint her to the open seat. She said she believes she can restore hope in the area.

In a handwritten letter of interest, Robert Cody stated that his qualifications to be appointed to commission was that he has lived in Troy his entire life and spent more than three decades working in the woods of Lincoln County. He also said that he believes he would be able to work well with the other commissioners to get things done.

Fifteen years after he lost the post, Lawrence Dolezal is hoping to once again represent Troy on the Lincoln County Commission. Dolezal was first elected to the post in the late-1980s, but lost reelection in 1998. He wrote that it would be “an honor” to again service the county.

Gregory Larson spent 20 years with the federal Resource Conservation and Development program, including time as the local program coordinator for Libby from 1998 to 2005. In that position he wrote numerous grant proposals and served on the board of the Kootenai River Development Council.

Craig Martin has had a varied career and has worked for both the Libby Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. He has also spent time in Kosovo and Iraq as a consultant and helped train the latter country’s police force. He is currently working in the Bakken in North Dakota.

The current commission will select a replacement for Downey in late July.


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