aryAnn Ries is looking forward to her retirement after 15 years of service as Pondera County Attorney with plans to travel extensively throughout this diverse country. Visiting the National Parks is at the top of her list.
Her departure won’t be all celebration. There are a few things she will miss, namely the active part of county government. While Mary Ann reinforces she is ready to move on, she shared the most rewarding aspect of her work as Pondera County Attorney has been the opportunity to make this (Pondera County) a better community and safer place to live.
After completing her undergraduate work at Western Montana in Dillon, MaryAnn and her family moved to Conrad in 1978. She began working for Pondera County as an Administrative Assistant in 1988. She was elected as the Justice of the Peace in 1992 and took office in January of 1993.
That experience spurred her interest in law. With three of her five boys still at home, she returned to Law School at the University of Montana. With a “very supportive husband” she maintained two residences and completed her degree in 2001. When asked if she would do it again, Mary Ann replied, “It has been very fulfilling, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
After her graduation from University of Montana MaryAnn worked as the Deputy County Attorney in Cascade County for four years, commuting from Conrad to Great Falls. She opened a small practice in Conrad in 2005. When the county attorney resigned, she applied and was appointed in 2005 and has been serving in that capacity ever since.
Holding people accountable and helping them turn their lives around is the part of her work that has made her most proud. She has learned to recognize that people need a chance to overcome bad decisions. For instance, when some of those bad decisions are due to chemical dependency, there is often an opportunity to send them to treatment court. Mary Ann explained it has been rewarding to be part of the 9th Judicial District Chemical Dependency Treatment Court.
“If they are successful at turning their lives around, the criminal offenses can be removed from their record, allowing them to move forward,” she said.
However, she is no bleeding heart. One second chance is sufficient. Her standard was always “one chance” to amend if circumstances warranted – but only one chance.
What has been the most difficult part of her job?
“When you personally know someone and understand the impact charges will have on their life, and yet you must move forward with criminal charges as in DUIs and such.”
It can be challenging to enforce laws in a community in which you live. When backlash came, Mary An held on to this mantra, “As long as I can sleep at night, I know I am doing my job right.”
hat do you see as the most positive aspect about Pondera County?
“Its people. When a disaster hits a family such as a medical challenge, people reach out. Residents and elected officials all pull together for fundraisers and other support.”
Adversely, Mary Ann sees the biggest challenge going forward for Pondera County will be the impacts from COVID-19. “There are changing situations and regulations on a daily basis. Financial impacts on the local economy - it’s going to be an interesting next few years.”
Advising the Commissioners and other County officials regarding the ever changing COVID regulations was also a challenge. Her hope is that we can keep businesses open by wearing masks, following the recommendations and respecting the rights of all.
Additionally, COVID-19 has had mental impacts. “We are already seeing problems within families due to increased stress, and the need for human interaction. I hope we will be kinder, more understanding, and reach out more.” She knows “people in Pondera County pull together.”
MaryAnn and her husband like traveling together and can get along in small spaces, so their 5th wheel trailer should be the perfect retirement home as they explore the sites of this great nation!
The Valierian staff and readers would like to thank MaryAnn Ries for her many years of service and wish her well on her next adventure!