[Editor’s note: This week the Inter Lake will profile each of the candidates in the contested Republican primary election for Flathead County commissioner.]
Gerald “Jay” Scott says he’s not a polished politician, but rather sees himself as an honest, hard-working family man who would represent “all citizens, not the few.”
Scott, along with Republicans Randy Brodehl and Ronalee Skees, are challenging incumbent Commissioner Gary Krueger in the June 5 primary election for the chance to represent District 3. Scott lost the 2012 primary election to Krueger by a whisker, falling just 23 votes shy.
“Being a commissioner is so important to me that I signed up at 8 a.m. the first day [of filing],” Scott said. “I didn’t need to think about it.”
Scott worked as Flathead County Fairgrounds manager from 1998 until February 2010, when the Fair Board opted not to renew his contract. He later sued the county, alleging he was wrongfully discharged, and won a modest financial settlement, though the county did not admit any wrongdoing.
He is proud of his accomplishments as fairgrounds manager. He said he used innovative funding to build both the Expo Building and Trade Center, facilities that now bring in substantial revenue for the fairgrounds.
Scott said his fairgrounds management gave him valuable experience in how the county budget works. He also has owned and sold three businesses through the years, broadening his financial experience.
“I have 40 years of working with contracts, negotiating, problem-solving and decision-making on schedules and financing,” Scott said.
“I am fiscally conservative,” he said. “And I am the only candidate from the very beginning to guarantee I will be an absolute full-time county commissioner representing all of the citizens.”
While Scott said it’s a good idea for the county to save money for a new county jail, he commented, “I don’t think they can put money away fast enough.
“I’m not 100 percent convinced we need a new jail today.”
With a capital improvement plan estimate of up to $50 million and a projected bond issue for a new jail — along with a recent study that showed a new facility would cost anywhere from $53 million to $74 million, depending on the location — Scott wonders: “Can we burden taxpayers with that increase?”
Scott said it’s time for the county to step back from developing new buildings and focus instead on infrastructure such as roads.
Regarding the long-term maintenance of the 911 dispatch center, Scott said he’s still trying to determine the “difference between what they want and what they need.
“I would not support a tax increase,” he said, pointing out that county residents who live in the county’s three incorporated cities already are paying double for the dispatch center.
“We need the communities to come up with ideas,” he said.
Scott said community involvement also will be important as the county grows.
“Zoning protects landowners. If they want that protection” they should initiate it, he said. “I don’t think the county should force zoning” on unzoned portions of the county, but he believes there “ought to be property planning throughout the county.”
The proposed water bottling plant near Creston has become a hot-button issue for many citizens, and Scott said that while he likes the idea of small-business ownership, he’s not in favor of the project “as I know it today.
“I do think either way there will be lawsuits because the commissioners didn’t take a stand either way,” he said, referring to the proposal to expand the Egan Slough Zoning District, a move that could stymie development of the bottling plant. “From what I’ve heard [Lew] Weaver (the owner of Montana Artesian Water Co.) has done the permit process correctly,” Scott said. “It would fall back on the taxpayers, though, to build up county roads; there will be a lot of trucks. Either way it will be a burden to the taxpayer.”
Scott weighed in on the tribal water compact now before Congress, saying he believes the tribes shouldn’t control water off the reservation.
Scott, who grew up in Pablo and graduated from high school in Ronan, said he knows a lot of tribal members and believes that “working together we could solve these problems.”
Scott said he’s a team player and would strive to work together with his fellow commissioners.
“The current commission not working together well just makes it harder to get projects done or done on time without expensive change-orders,” he said. “I don’t think all three of the commissioners are team players, and there’s a real disconnect between the commissioners and taxpaying citizens.”
Scott said he believes the commissioners should regularly visit county departments, and “even walk down Main Street and introduce themselves, and go to the other communities.”
Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze
Scott says he’ll work hard for all citizens
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