Council Dysfunction, Economy at Center of Libby Municipal Race

Nine candidates running for three open spots on Libby’s city council

By Justin Franz

After months of turmoil on its city council, the upcoming municipal election in Libby may help sort out some of the issues that nearly crippled the local government.

Nine people are running for three open spots on Libby’s six-person council. The candidates are Gary Beach, Joseph Johnston, Arlen Magill, Joe Miller, DC Orr, incumbents Allen Olsen and Peggy Williams and sitting Mayor Doug Roll, who announced his intention to run earlier this year as a “spoiler.”

A tenth candidate, Dejon Raines, is running unopposed to complete the four-year term she was appointed to earlier this year when Robin Benson stepped down.

A years-long dispute between Roll and Olsen came to a boil earlier this year when the Commissioner of Political Practices issued a report alleging that Roll, former City Attorney James Reintsma and the Libby City Council may have influenced the 2013 mayoral election when the city filed a lawsuit against Olsen stating he was not a resident and thus could not run for mayor against Roll. Roll beat Olsen by just 13 votes.

Since Commissioner Jonathan Motl issued his report, city council meetings have been canceled on numerous occasions and the ones held have included heated arguments. Candidates like Olsen, Orr and Magill (who filed the complaint against Roll following the 2013 election) have said the council’s problems stem from the mayor himself.

“Until we remove Doug, nothing will change,” Olsen said last week. “I think this election will tell us if people are ready for change.”

But the mayor says it is Olsen and his supporters who are the problem, which is why he decided earlier this year to run as a spoiler.

“We’ve been dealing with their crap for 15 years,” Roll said earlier this summer when he announced his plan to run for council. “People say the city council is full of controversy, but that’s not true. It’s Orr and Olsen that make up the controversies.”

Williams, one of the incumbents who is running for a third term, agrees with Roll and said that she believes much of the controversies surrounding the council are made up by a small and vocal group. She decided to run again because she felt she had unfinished business, particularly work on the parks board.

Magill offered a solution to some of the issues that have plagued the council in recent years. He suggested the establishment of a public insight committee that would oversee the council and help keep it on track. He said one of the biggest issues he sees in Libby is the “distance” between the electorate and elected officials.

But the council candidates who are less involved in the Roll-Olsen divide say that city residents are tired of the bickering and want the council to address real issues. Miller, owner of Libby Kwik Lube, said some council members have forgotten who they work for.

“You’re not working for yourself on the council, you’re working for the taxpayers of Libby,” he said. “And I think some people have forgotten that.”

Miller said Libby’s foremost priority should be taking care of its infrastructure. It’s a view echoed by candidates like Zimmerman and Johnston.

Zimmerman, 45, has lived in Libby nearly all his life and currently works at Timberline Auto Center. He said, if elected he would comb the budget for extra money and apply for as many municipal grants as possible. He said the money should be reinvested into the city’s roads and bridges.

Johnston, a recently retired accountant who served on the council in the 1990s, said the city should do more to promote tourism. He specifically sited a plan from the 1990s to build a pool and waterslide to attract tourists who are passing through town. He also said the city council should support any effort to diversify the local economy as well as supporting long-term projects like the Montanore Mine south of town.

Libby is not the only community in Lincoln County this year with an election. In Eureka, Rosalie Adauto, Kevin Jeffries and Gregory Thompson are facing off against each other for two spots on the city council. Stormy Langston is running unopposed for town judge. In Troy, incumbents Joe Arts and Crystal Denton are both running unopposed for two seats on that community’s city council. And in Rexford, Kathleen Madaio and Bill Marvel are running for two spots on the city council.

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