Flathead County commissioner candidate Mike Shepard says he wouldn’t need on-the-job training if elected.
“I can jump right in and do the job,” he said.
Shepard says his 14 years as a member of the Columbia Falls City Council help him understand how local government works, and his work experience adds to his understanding of large budgets and operations.
Shepard, a Republican, says he’ll lead the charge when it’s needed and be a quiet leader when needed.
“I believe in standing up for what’s right and in not selling your soul,” Shepard said.
Elected to a school board when he was in his 20s, Shepard realized early that as elected officials “the most important thing we do is be responsible with people’s tax dollars.”
He’s carried that philosophy with him on the Columbia Falls council, a group that he says operates with a tight budget and is fiscally conservative.
“We toe the line, we haven’t raised taxes, there have been no lawsuits on actions taken by the Columbia Falls council,” Shepard said. “That speaks unto itself that we know how to do it.”
Council members check their personal agendas at the door, he said.
If elected commissioner, he would follow suit.
Shepard says he understands numbers and budgets and believes in reviewing data.
“I have no agenda,” Shepard said.
Commenting on the Whitefish doughnut issue is somewhat moot, he says, because of litigation to determine jurisdiction in that area.
“Until it’s settled there’s not much we can do,” he said.
“There is an agenda at play within the city of Whitefish that hasn’t manifested itself,” Shepard said. “Until the citizens get tired of paying attorneys and toss people out of office, it will continue.”
He worries that if the court rules in favor of the county, the city will pursue more litigation.
Shepard said he thinks Flathead County could avoid being sued if county commissioners had philosophical discussions with the board members and department heads and then developed policies for department heads to implement.
Shepard has been a member of the 911 board since its creation in 1997.
Open for less than two years, the center still needs organizational work, he said.
“I’m passionate about getting this completed,” he said.
The playing field needs to be leveled for all taxpayers to fund the 911 center, which operates through an interlocal agreement between Flathead County and its three incorporated cities, Shepard said.
“The original concept was for it to be a stand-alone center,” he said. But with many players in the process, that changed. While the dispatch center is consolidated and handles all emergency calls for all agencies, the cities and the county all maintain separate law enforcement departments.
It seems when the discussion of improving the efficiency of a government entity comes up, the talk usually turns to privatization of services, Shepard said.
He favors determining how much it will cost the county to do any particular project, seeking bids from the private sector to do that project and then choosing the less costly alternative.
“We should always look at dollars and cents” and the bid process is one way to do that, he said. “Who can do it better and more cost effectively” should always be asked.
County commissioners should regularly discuss specific department needs with county employees and hear employee suggestions about “how to do their jobs, what they need and how they could improve their efficiency,” he said.
Private businesses streamline processes and government should do the same, he said.
Likewise, each department needs to be continuously looked at to see what it should be doing and if it can be done better, he said.
Reporter Shelley Ridenour may be reached at 758-4439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.