Trustee candidates profiled for upcoming school elections

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School elections are coming and school districts in the valley will hold either mail-ballot or walk-in elections on May 7.

Ballots go out this week for districts holding mail-ballot elections including Bigfork, Fair-Mont-Egan, Smith Valley and Helena Flats.

Columbia Falls School District is holding a walk-in election.

Voters living in Bigfork, Fair-Mont-Egan, Smith Valley and Columbia Falls school districts will see contested trustee races on the ballot.

Helena Flats School District is running a general fund levy. General fund levies go toward the day-to-day operation and maintenance of schools. Money raised by a general fund levy can be used for a broad range of expenses such as personnel, classroom supplies, textbooks, technology and building repairs or maintenance.

Voters are reminded that the new Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act goes into effect and impacts individuals who are collecting and delivering another individual’s ballot.

A person bringing in another voter’s ballot must sign a registry with their name address and phone number. The person must also provide their relationship to the voter such as: caregiver, family member, household member or acquaintance in addition to the voter’s name and address.

A person may drop off a maximum of six ballots. Anything above that amount may result in a $500 fine per ballot.

Following is a roundup of school district levy requests and biographical information provided by candidates in contested school board trustee races.


There are six candidates vying for two open seats on the Bigfork School District board. Both are for three-year terms.

Approximately, 5,010 ballots were mailed Friday and are due in the district office, 600 Commerce St., by 8 p.m. May 7. The office will open at 8 a.m. on election day.

• Zack D. Anderson (incumbent)

Age: 45

Family: Married, daughter, 17, son, 13.

Occupation: Self-employed, president of Anderson Masonry Inc.

Education: Bachelor of Science in construction engineering technology from Montana State University.

Background: Current Bigfork Fire District Board of Trustees chairman; Bigfork Little Guy Wrestling Club board president; Kalispell Airport Association board president; also serves on the Montana, Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington Masonry Promotion Group; Eagle Bend Junior Golf scholarship committee; Recreational Aviation Foundation volunteer; previously volunteers as a Bigfork Youth Baseball coach for three years; former vice president of the Montana Pilots Association, Flathead hangar .

Why do you want to serve? I’m duty driven to continue volunteering my time, serving the voters/taxpayers of the Bigfork School District, for betterment of the common good.

• Dennis Kelleher

Age: 68

Family: One son and one daughter and four grandsons.

Occupation: Owner of Kelleher’s General Contracting Services, armed security guard with Grizzly Security and substitute teacher. Former police officer in Massachusetts and a deputy sheriff in Wyoming.

Education: Graduated high school in Massachusetts and completed two years of criminal law.

Background: Bigfork resident for 35 years; spent this school year substitute teaching in Kalispell and Evergreen school districts, which has given him “a much greater understanding of the needs of teachers and students;” visited class6rooms and with teachers in Bigfork schools to see what their needs are; worked for the Bigfork school district 22 years ago in charge of buildings and grounds; has attended Bigfork School District board meetings and gained “an extremely good working knowledge of how the school board works in supporting the school system.”

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I want to be a school board trustee because I believe, for one thing, change is good; a new set of eyes can see things differently than those who have been in the position for any length of time.

• Wendy Miller

Age: 51

Family: Three children.

Occupation: Self-employed artist and owner at Montana Leaf Works.

Education: Associate of Science and Associate of Arts from Flathead Valley Community College.

Background: Through attendance and involvement in school board meetings over the past nine years, along with her children attending Bigfork School District, she’s “gained an understanding of the responsibilities, duties and limitations of trustees and have become well-acquainted with our school’s administrators.”

Why do you wand to serve as a trustee? I want to serve as a trustee because I will be a strong advocate for our children and our entire school community.

• Norah Morrison

Age: 42

Family: Husband Euan, four children Josie, 8, Eilidh, 7, Ivan, 5, Tadhg, 3. Three oldest children attend Bigfork Elementary.

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother, former veterinarian.

Education: Bachelor degrees in biology and anthropology from Loyola University in Chicago; degree in veterinary medicine from The University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Background: Reading volunteer for Bigfork Elementary kindergarteners and third-graders; field trip chaperone; Bigfork library book sale and PTA Christmas Shop volunteer; fundraised for Special Olympics, American Brain Tumor Association and SCAD Research Alliance; previously worked/volunteered for soup kitchens, community centers and organizations such as: 8th Day Center for Social Justice working on a case to overturn a wrongful murder conviction, Woman to Woman in Guatemala helping indigenous women, rebuilding homes in Appalachia in addition to teaching students CPR and coordinating an equine therapy program; member or past member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, Queen of All Saints Women’s Auxiliary Club and The Elizabeth Ministry; awarded the Cook County gold medal of honor for service work in Chicago and a Chicago Fire Department citizen’s award for helping to save a life with CPR.

Why do you wand to serve as a trustee? I want to serve as member of the Bigfork Board of Trustees as I see the need for progress and change, there needs to be more involvement and advocacy for students in the school with special needs, there needs to be more academic and wellness based after school clubs and more funding achieved for the school to help provide more services and opportunities to our students.

• Aaron Parish

Age: 37

Family: Wife Jill, children Carson, 11 and Case, 5, who attend fifth grade and prekindergarten at Bigfork Elementary and Middle School.

Occupation: Owner and president of Parish Plumbing and Heating.

Education: North Dakota State College of Science plumbing apprenticeship; licensed master plumber.

Background: Flathead Valley native who attended Bigfork School District; volunteer for Flathead County 4-H, Bigfork Chamber and Toys for Tots; Bigfork Youth Baseball business sponsor; Bigfork Booster Club supporter.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I want to serve as trustee because I want to give back to a community that has given me so much, and to ensure that our children continue to learn the skills necessary to succeed, not only academically, but also to be effective communicators and future leaders.

• Monarae Tuhy

Age: 58

Occupation: Independent contractor for the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork and Bigfork Playhouse foundation, water aerobic instructor at the Montana Athletic Club.

Education: Some college

Background: Montana Organic Association secretary; Bigfork Rotary president-elect; involved with the school garden since its inception; Bigfork Fourth of July parade committee member.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? To be the voice for the students whose parents can’t or won’t speak for themselves.


There are two three-year terms open on the Columbia Falls School District board with four candidates.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Glacier Gateway Elementary, 440 Fourth Ave. W.

• Bruce Crockett

Age: 35

Family: Wife, Jessica, of 15 years; four children, Katherine, 14, Isaac, 11, Eli, 8, and Emerie, 4; licensed foster parents.

Occupation: Pastor of Gateway Church in Columbia Falls.

Education: Independence High School graduate; Bachelor of Arts degree from Blue Mountain College; Master of Divinity degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary; Doctor of Ministry degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

Background: North Valley Search and Rescue volunteer; Columbia Falls baseball program volunteer coach; served as a student minister for more than 13 years working with junior and high schools; volunteer tutor with the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home for two years; founding board member of Turning Point Pregnancy Center in Alabama.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I would love the opportunity to help serve our community and make a difference in the quality of our educational system.

• Larry Wilson (incumbent)

Age: 82

Occupation: Retired teacher and post yard owner (manufactured wooden fence posts).

Education: Bachelor of Arts from the University of Montana

Background: Served on the Columbia Falls school board for 33 years; North Fork Landowners Association president; member of the Columbia Falls Police Commission; foster parent.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I taught at the Columbia Falls Junior High and high school for 14 years and consider myself an advocate for increased vocational education in our schools as well as for getting the most out of every tax dollar.

• Heather Mumby

Age: 46

Family: Husband; son who is a second-grader at Glacier Gateway Elementary.

Occupation: Cayuse Prairie School business manager/clerk.

Education: Flathead High School graduate; Bachelor of Arts in political science from Seattle University; Bachelor of Science in accounting from Colorado Technical University.

Background: Grew up in Flathead Valley; previously worked for organizations representing the commercial fishing industry, at nonprofits, as a clerk with Belt School District outside of Great Falls, and at the Flathead Special Education Cooperative in Kalispell.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? As a parent and someone who is familiar with school finance, I believe I can competently serve Columbia Falls School district.

• David Shaffer

Age: 76

Family: Married for 50 years to Carla.

Occupation: Retired math and physics school teacher in Columbia Falls School District; part-time instructor at Flathead Valley Community College. Education: Master’s degree in mathematics, physics and secondary education from the University of Utah.

Background: During 40-year teaching tenure taught at the high school and junior high levels in Columbia Falls, taught physics for two years in a California school and one year as a district math specialist in a Washington school district, taught mathematics and computer science for seven years on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington; trained a student teacher.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? The reason that I am running for the trustee position is that I have a vested interest in our school system where 10 of my children graduated. I love our school system, staff and students and I have a drive to help where I can since I do not professionally teach.


The Fair-Mont-Egan School District board has two three-year terms open with four candidates.

Approximately, 1,038 ballots were mailed Friday and are due by 8 p.m. May 7 at the school, 797 Fairmont Rd.

Katie Freeman (incumbent)

Age: 32

Family: Married with two children.

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Montana.

Background: Current board member.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? My background as a board member allows me a better understanding of what it takes to help Fair-Mont-Egan continue forward, to equip our students to be the best they can be, and shape our school into being the best it can be for every student.

• Linda C. Kaps

Family: Husband Robert Hatlen; daughter Brooke Bailey, son Ryan Bailey, stepson Tim Hatlen (wife Kristi); grandchildren Laine, Gavin and Raife.

Occupation: Counselor at Columbia Falls High School; previously taught English at Columbia Falls High School for 34 years and two years at Lolo Middle School.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Montana; Master of Education in counseling from the University of West Alabama; National Board Certification in English language arts/adolescence and young adulthood.

Background: Lived in the Fair-Mont-Egan School District since 1982 with two generations of family attending the school; previously coached soccer and volleyball for Fair-Mont Egan; 40 years of experience in education as a teacher and counselor; current vice chairwoman and past chairwoman of Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana; member of the Sparrow’s Nest start-up committee; Credit Committee Columbia Falls High School; helped develop Language Arts curricula at Columbia Falls High School.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? My desire is to work with the Fair-Mont-Egan community to continue make Fair-Mont-Egan a place where teachers want to work, students want to attend and parents want their students to be educated while participating in all the unique opportunities a country school offers.

• Travis Tennison

Age: 40

Family: Wife Angie, daughter and seventh-grader Quin, 12, son and fourth-grader Trent, 9.

Occupation: Flathead Electric Cooperative foreman lineman.

Education: NRECA Mountain States Line apprenticeship

Background: Serves on a safety committee, apprenticeship committee and assists with union negotiations.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I want to be involved to support my children and the community I live in to ensure the best environment possible.

• Lara Zimmerman

Age: 39

Family: Husband Nolan, two children aged 11 and 13.

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, former insurance adjuster

Education: Washington State University.

Background: Fair-Mont-Egan School volunteer; member of the Fair-Mont-Egan PTF for the past eight years; International Shotokan Karate Federation Montana board treasurer

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? To be the voice of our community and our children.

Smith Valley

Three candidates are vying for two three-year terms on the Smith Valley School District board.

Approximately 1,413 ballots were mailed Friday and are due at the school, 2901 U.S. 2 W., by 8 p.m. May 7.

• Jerril M. Ren (incumbent)

Age: 46

Family: Married with two children, an 18-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.

Occupation: Montana Highway Patrol state trooper since 2000.

Education: High school graduate with two years at Flateahd Valley Community College.

Background: U.S. Air Force veteran; started his law enforcement career in 1998 with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbia Falls Police Department.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I enjoy serving my community and want to ensure all children attending Smith Valley School get the best possible education available.

• Rand A. Norby

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired electric and plumbing salesman and also worked in the construction/building industry.

Family: Two children and grandchildren.

Education: Attended a trade school to study electronics; some college.

Background: Former Smith Valley School board trustee from 1996-2000.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? To provide the best education possible for our tax dollars.

• Doni M. Bennett (incumbent)

Please note Bennett is a write-in candidate and her name will not appear on the ballot.

Age: 44

Family: Husband, Brett, of 23 years, four children.

Occupation: Owner and operator of Doni Marie’s Beauty Connection where she is a stylist and esthetician in the salon; started working in the cosmetology industry in 2014; stay-at-home mother for 16 years.

Education: Attended Boorman School until it consolidated with Batavia in 1989 her eight-grade year; Flathead High School graduate; completed a certified nursing course at Flathead Valley Community College; studied cosmetology at Creviers Academy of Cosmetology Arts.

Background: Fourth-generation Flathead Valley resident; served on the school board for the past several years.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? For me, serving on the Smith Valley School Board is a meaningful contribution to my district and community.

Helena Flats

Helena Flats School District is running a $65,000 general fund levy.

If approved, an owner of a home valued at $200,000 can anticipate annual taxes to increase by about $54.

The intent is that the levy, 20 mills, will potentially be offset by an estimated decrease of 19 mills in the district’s tuition fund starting in the 2019-20 school year. The tuition fund is used to cover costs for a student who attends a school outside the district they live to obtain special services.

About 1,217 ballots were mailed out Wednesday and are due at the school, 1000 Helena Flats Road, by 8 p.m. May 7.

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