Libby businessman and former state representative Jerry Bennett was elected on Nov. 8 to a six-year term on the Lincoln County Commission.
Bennett bested political newcomer Rhoda Cargill, earning 61 percent of the vote, to replace current commissioner Greg Larson. Bennett received 5,222 votes compared to Cargill’s 3,240. He will take office in January.
The four-term Republican state representative has also served on numerous local boards, including president of the Libby Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the local hospital board. Bennett also previously owned a septic business. He said those leadership experiences will help him take on the issues facing Lincoln County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Montana. Bennett said he hopes to change that in the coming years.
“Government doesn’t create jobs, but we can foster an environment that is conducive to job creation,” he said.
During the campaign, Bennett said it was important for the commission to play a role in attracting new business to the area, especially at the county-owned business park in Libby. While Bennett said he supports efforts to use Lincoln County’s natural resources, including timber, copper and silver, it’s important to have a diverse economy.
Much of Lincoln County’s land is in federal control, and Bennett said with Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, it’s possible some of the restrictions on natural-resource extraction could be reduced. Bennett said it is too early to tell what decisions in Washington D.C. might impact Lincoln County, but he was optimistic that change was afoot.
“The elements are in place at the federal level for changes that could benefit Lincoln County and other rural areas in America,” he said.
Bennett said he plans on spending the next few weeks catching up on business facing the current commission. While the election is over, Bennett encouraged his constituents to remain engaged and reach out to him about any issues they may have.
“It’s so important that people stay involved in the days ahead,” he said.
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