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All three Glacier County Commissioners were on hand for the May 28 meeting in Browning, along with Melanie Heavy Runner who took notes. The agenda, which only had an update from Kari Lewis on the Glacier County MSU Extension Service, was amended to include a request from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding Glacier County’s new Department of Emergency Services (DES) Director, Lanaina Upham.

Lewis began by handing out a pamphlet and a list of updates for the Commissioners to view. The list featured the 2019 workshops presented. Lewis pointed out a total of  665 people were impacted through the workshops in 2019.

She listed other accomplishments, such as being selected the national “Search for Excellence” winner in livestock programming for Calvin’ Fever with Pondera and Toole county agents Adriane Good and Kim Woodring. Her program was also selected as West Region and National Finalist for a program promotional piece in National Ag Agents Association; selected as West Region finalist for Website/Online Content in National Ag Agents Association; selected to be Montana’s participant in the regional WELD (Western Extension Leadership Development) program. Lewis updated the commissioners on numerous other events and activities she has conducted and/or participated in.

 She also mentioned the St. Mary Working Group is seeking a representative from Glacier County. Commissioner DesRosier noted former DES Director Charles Farmer had been a member of the group and suggested new DES Director Lanaina Upham might work as the county representative.

DesRosier asked if Glacier County would have a vote if represented and if the county would owe dues to the group. Lewis said she would look into the matters.

Asking about her budget, Lewis was told to check with Clerk and Recorder Mandi Kennerly, but that some furloughs would be coming. Both Commissioners DesRosier and Tom McKay said protesting taxes creates a “catch 22” in withholding funds for public operations. Commissioner John Overcast said it is “stressful for employees,” but expressed confidence in CFO Chancy Kittson and his crew. “We’re making good progress behind the scenes,” he said. Overcast believes it’s time for a department head meeting to reassure employees.

Commissioner DesRosier said he would keep Lewis informed.

DesRosier announced Upham has been asked to work for FEMA in Oklahoma. “FEMA wants her for 15 days because she’s the only one trained to do specific things there,” he said. The county would pay for her travel and expenses, as well as her salary while working for FEMA, but the county would be repaid all the money once the job is finished.

“I don’t know if we can spare her, but it shows the quality of the people we have working for us,” he said. His views were echoed by Overcast who said that when she attended a training in Great Falls, they turned the session over to her  when they realized she was the only one qualified to do so.

The matter was tabled until the May 29 meeting.

The Commissioners continued the discussion with Upham and Human Resources Director Mike Kittson on May 29.

“When I worked with FEMA, I worked side-by-side with the state,” Upham said. “I still have a lot of questions, especially on the state side…I need these questions answered – having it all out on the table – before I say yes.” 

Kittson asked Upham for a plan to cover her time gone from the county and said the county should be able to recall her at any time for an emergency. He said she should work with the Sheriff to “prepare for the worst.”

Pending the outcome of those inquiries, the Commissioners approved her working with FEMA in Oklahoma.

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