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Candidates in Butte-Silver Bow County chief executive race meet for debate

Butte-Silver Bow County chief executive debate
Posted at 6:37 PM, Apr 05, 2024

BUTTE — About 100 people gathered on April 4, 2024 for a debate put on by students from Montana Tech’s business school for the four candidates running in the Butte-Silver Bow County chief executive race.

Each candidate expressed their fondness for and connection to the Mining City, but each had varying reasons for throwing their hats in the ring.

Bill Foley, a journalist and podcast host, says he was inspired to run for the position when he attended a meeting in Centerville with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2024. He says he saw residents in tears and he felt angered by a lack of response from current county leadership, so he was moved to enter the race.

“I thought, right then, we need somebody who is going to stand up and speak up for the people of Butte. Someone who is not going to let them dump toxic waste in our neighborhood. Someone who is gonna go fight with the governor when he raises their taxes," Foley says. "Someone who is not going to silence people’s First Amendment rights to speak at the library because a Nazi sends them a message on Facebook. We need someone who stands up for all of the people of Butte, and once we get some real transparency, some real involvement, we can show the world that we are still the can-do city."

He says his communication skills, including listening to the members of the public, are strengths he can bring to the position.

Cathy “Moe” Goodwin, a businesswoman and certified respiratory therapist, says that she entered the race for chief executive because of a nostalgia for the past and because of the pothole problem throughout town.

“I’m in the race because I love Butte. I believe in Butte. I miss a lot of things that used to be Butte, like our shopping. I miss our shopping. I miss the fact that it was a community thing that we could go there and bring back to the dinner table to say, ‘Hey! I seen so-and-so today. How they doing? They’re doing great.' Now we have to be forced to go out of town to shop?” says Goodwin.

She says her communication skills and ability to collaborate and focus on community are her strengths.

Rayelynn Brandl is the executive director of the Clark Fork Watershed Program and she has 16 years of dealing with Butte’s Superfund issues. She says her work in team-building with various teachers across the nation will give her success in leading the county.

Brandl says she wants to build an approachable and efficient county government, build an innovation economy, and deliver Superfund.

“It’s time to put Superfund in the rearview mirror,” says Brandl, adding that she’ll use collaboration and team building to accomplish this feat.

“If you’re looking for a person in your chief executive who has the science background, who has the intelligence, who has the leadership skills, who is also open, approachable, and kind, I am your chief executive,” says Brandl.

She also cites her experience as a professional boxer to addsto her expertise because she knows how to fight for the issues she champions.

J.P. Gallagher is the incumbent candidate for the chief executive position. He took office during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and he says his leadership was instrumental in helping the community through that difficult period.

Gallagher also says he stood up to the governor’s tax hikes, but after a judge decided against Silver Bow County and 38 other counties across the state, the remainder of the property taxes were issued late last month. He says his experience as an administrator in schools across the state and his experience as Parks and Recreation director for Butte-Silver Bow have set him up for success to lead the county for a second term.

Despite complaints by local businesses about ADA compliance and residents about unsafe neighborhoods, Gallagher says he trusts his team to fix the issues and is working to resolve the problems.

“We gotta take care of the past when we talk about Superfund. And then we gotta look to the future. Things are not going to happen in a silo, but this is just not one issue and it’s important to know the facts before we open our mouths. To know the processes. To know what can be done and what can’t be done,” says Gallagher.

Gallagher says some complaints about the county’s performance that were brought up during the meeting need to be changed at the policy level.

“Some of the things that were brought up today needs to go to the council to change policy to make adjustments. We want ADA accessibility in here, but there’s a way to go about it—policy making. We need to move forward with that. We have an ADA coordinator. We have put off ADA for a number of years. We haven’t addressed it. We need to address those things here,” says Gallagher.