Following Resignation, New Commissioner Takes Reins in Lincoln County

Gregory Larson was appointed to represent Troy after Ron Downey announced he was stepping aside for health reasons

By Justin Franz

Two months after Commissioner Ron Downey announced he was stepping down from his post for health reasons, the Lincoln County Commission has appointed Gregory Larson as his replacement.

Larson emerged from a field of eight candidates vying to represent the Troy area and will be sworn in on Aug. 5. He will serve the remainder of Downey’s term until 2017.

“I’m really looking forward for the chance to get involved again and get in the mix,” Larson said.

Larson graduated from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls in 1975 with a bachelors of science in land management. He then spent 33 years working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, specifically in the resource conservation and development program. Larson was the program coordinator for the Libby area from 1998 and 2005 and helped draft the area’s economic development plan. After he retired from the USDA, he worked as a consultant on Lincoln County’s growth policy plan and has served on the board of the Kootenai River Development Council.

Having a background in resource conservation will help deal with some of the biggest issues facing the county, Larson said. He said he is a firm supporter of using the land and resources Lincoln County has to help its struggling economy and hopes to forge productive relationships with local leadership on the Kootenai National Forest.

“We have to be one of the richest counties in Montana with all our natural resources and yet we have the highest unemployment,” he said. “I strongly believe that the best form of government is government that is close to the people and I believe the same when it comes to natural resources.

Commission Chairman Tony Berget said that Larson’s experience in natural resources is what gave him an edge, but also noted that he had a lot of support from Troy residents and businesses.

“He seemed to grasp the issues better than anyone else,” Berget said. “But we had a lot of great candidates and we were impressed with all of the applications.”

Larson joins the county commission just months after the June primary. Chairman Berget, the longest serving commissioner and a former Libby mayor, was ousted in a three-way primary election race with Mark Peck and Russell Bache. Now, Peck and Bache will face off during the November general election to see who will represent Libby.

The morning after the election, Downey surprised many in the county and Troy when he announced 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.

The election and resignation leaves Mike Cole, who represents Eureka, as the longest-serving commissioner on the board.

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