This year voters have a choice of three candidates for the open seat on the Glacier County Board of Commissioners. In the primary election, Brian Gallup bested incumbent Tom McKay to gain the Democratic nomination while McKay began a campaign as a write-in candidate. Meanwhile, Mary Jo Bremner entered the race as an Independent.
The Glacier Reporter invited all three to respond to a series of questions for this week’s issue. Listed in order, the questions were:
1. What financial expertise do you bring to the table for correcting the county’s longstanding fiscal difficulties?
2. What steps would you take to achieve a better working relationship with the Blackfeet Tribe and entities such as Browning Schools?
3. How would you ensure that all the County’s libraries remain open?
4. Why are you the best person to represent the wishes of all the people of Glacier County?
The candidates’ responses follow below.
Mary Jo Bremner
I am Mary Jo Bremner. My Blackfeet name is “Pretty Blanket Woman.” I was born in Glacier County in Browning. I have two sons and 10 grandchildren who live away from here. My parents are Robert and Rita Bremner. I have learned my values and hard work ethic from them. They both served our community throughout their lives. I have 12 siblings. I graduated from Browning High School. I have a Bachelor’s in Rehabilitation and one in History and Psychology, and I hold a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
1. I worked for the Human Resource Development Council where I trained and supervised employees to distribute money to low income families for energy assistance in the Billings area. I had to read and implement federal regulations and follow fiscal regulations related to millions of federal dollars meant for distribution. I taught at Browning High School for 30 years teaching history, government and psychology. I serve on the Montana Board of Public Education. As a member of BPE we have to understand Montana Code Annotated and the importance of following and developing law as applied to our education system, as well as reviewing budgets from programs distributing funds to our public schools. The Governor, Board of Regents, State Superintendent and Commissioner of Higher Education are ex-officio members.
2. I believe an integral part of being a Commissioner is working with government agencies and our Tribal Government. I served as the President of the Teacher’s Union for 16 years with Browning Public Schools where we negotiated many contracts. As a negotiator, I learned to mend fences, be honest, bold and remain open-minded. We worked within the school’s budget. I also served on the National Education Commission on Minority Affairs, traveling to Washington D.C. where we governed the recruitment and retention of minority teachers. We also had the privilege to witnessing President Obama sign ESSA into law (the current U.S. education law).
3. The doors to our libraries should never be closed, and I would make sure they stay open. Our libraries are a focal part of our communities and keep us grounded in who we are through preservation of identity and place.
4. I am a leader you can trust. I will do what I say and work tirelessly until it is done. I will never make a promise that can’t be done. I can look at all situations with new eyes and problems facing our County and be a problem solver. I understand public service and working for all constituents and will build bridges for better government. I know that it will be a process that will take hard work, and I am willing to work hard.
Hi. I am Brian Gallup. I am a lifelong resident of Glacier County. I am married to Marcy, and we have a 16 year old daughter, Brilee, who is a junior at Browning High School.
I believe my experience as a school board member for Browning Public Schools for 21 years and the School Board Chair of the East Glacier Park Grade School for the last nine years gives me more than enough experience to understand how Glacier County finances are supposed to work. As you know, the Attorney General’s office has determined that Glacier County has severe deficits in its accountability of managing County funds. This ongoing problem has forced all county schools to pull their money from the management of Glacier County. Browning Public Schools has entered into litigation to receive the remainder of its funds. I believe the solution lies in following the policies and procedures set in place by State Statutes. I believe we must set and follow realistic budgets. We cannot put this burden on the taxpayers.
I currently sit on the National Indian Impacted Schools Association Board of Directors. I have had the pleasure of representing the Blackfeet Nation and Indian lands across the country, securing over $15 million annually for Glacier County schools. I have always had a good working relationship with the Tribe, both professionally and personally. I look forward to that ongoing relationship and will listen to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, especially during the pandemic.
Not having the whole picture, it is hard to understand the closure of Glacier County libraries. I do know that drastic cuts have been made due to Glacier County’s financial mismanagement. With our Reservation schools doing remote learning and Cut Bank School’s blended model, I can’t stress enough the importance of our libraries. I promise to do everything possible to get them up and running again.
I am confident that I could be a contributing part of getting Glacier County back on track to financial stability. I understand government finances and annual budgets. I know how local governments get their revenue, and I understand how governments are supposed to spend on programs and account for those expenditures. I think my personal resume speaks for itself: my experience on the Browning and East Glacier School Boards, 13 years on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, six years on the National Indian Impacted Schools Association, and a lifelong rancher and independent business owner - all with balanced budgets.
In closing, a healthy county government makes a healthy school environment, which makes a healthy community. I would be honored to represent you as a Glacier County Commissioner. Your support would be greatly appreciated.
1. I have experience working with budgets when I was on the School Board for eight-and-a-half years. I was also in an administrative position when I was at the Pencil Factory for 18 1/2 years until I resigned, and I was in an administrative position when I was an employee at Blackfeet Housing for 14 years. Each of these positions required me to be involved in the finance departments.
The long standing fiscal problems don’t exist anymore with the county. As of today Glacier County is financially stable with a substantial reserve to carry forward.
2. Keep the lines of communications open and continue cooperating with the Council, as long as we continue adhering to state statutes and county policies and procedures.
3. County libraries have a governing board of directors who are responsible for their financial well being. The county would continue their financial responsibility each year and, again, the governing board would be responsible for managing the county’s contribution so that doesn’t happen again. Leanne (LeAnne Kavanagh) said that she belongs to the friends of the library. This group, along with the governing board of directors should be promoting the library by organizing and having events to raise monies to see that the financial well being stays intact.
4. The county is a business! My many years of experience in the business world, both private and public, has given me the knowledge and capability to manage financial aspects of the county, human resources and working with community issues. I also was chairman of the Blackfeet Law & Order Commission and continue today to stay involved. I am at the county courthouse every day, and I never miss a meeting. I take all matters brought to my attention very seriously, and I listen to people and their concerns and treat everyone very respectfully. Everyone in and around the county knows who I am, and they know that I am not capable of doing all those things that are written about us.