Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

Missoula County Commissioners

Local Election Guide


October 8, 2020

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Missoula County Commissioner candidates that will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 3 General Election.

Ballots will be mailed Oct. 9. Return ballots by mail, vote in person Oct. 20 at the Missoula County Satellite Office or drop off ballots at various drop off locations including Seeley Lake Elementary on Election Day, Nov. 3. For more information visit

Juanita Vero (D) - Incumbent Biography

• Where do you live? Greenough, Montana

• How long have you lived in Montana? 39 years

• Education: Lewis and Clark College; BA, English

• Experience that makes you suitable for the position: I was appointed Missoula County Commissioner in July, 2019. A fourth generation Montanan, I help run a family dude ranch, one of the oldest family-owned and operated dude ranches in the state. I served on numerous boards and committees-- Sunset School Board, Big Blackfoot Chapter Trout Unlimited, Montana Conservation Voters, Swan Valley Connections, Missoula County Open Lands Committee-- in executive capacity. I have a deep love for this complex, complicated county and its citizens. In the midst of a pandemic, that love and admiration has only grown more profound. Living in Greenough, I bring rooted, direct knowledge of Missoula County’s rural sensibilities and challenges to the County Commissioner role.

• Family or anything else you want voters to know: Daughter of Mary and Louis Vero, sister of Emmanuel “Boise” Vero, partner at the E Bar L Ranch, wife of Dr. Matthew J. Rinella, rangeland ecologist for USDA Agricultural Research Service at Ft. Keogh. Granddaughter of the late O.W. “Bill” Potter, whose curmudgeonly conservation and timber management was a love letter to a landscape he cherished. His efforts inspired me and many others— from Maine to Oregon— to work towards smart management.

• Website and contact information:;

Do you feel the current Missoula County Commission represents the county well? Why or why not? Absolutely. One commissioner lives in downtown Missoula, the second on a vegetable farm on the outskirts of town and I’m on a ranch way out on the eastern edge, bumping up against Powell County. The current Missoula County Commission represents a range of academic, professional, business, political, personal and lived experiences. This commission takes very seriously the concerns of all Missoula County citizens— Swan to Lolo, Ninemile to Clinton, Huson to Greenough – regardless of where they live or what their experience is.

What major issues do you see facing our county in the next few years? Attainable housing. Available, affordable, quality childcare. Climate chaos resilience.

If you were elected, how would you work to solve them? If elected, I would continue to develop a comprehensive, tactical approach to attainable housing. Throughout Missoula County, affordable housing was out of reach for many before COVID-19, and is even more so now, six months into the pandemic’s economic disruption. I’m working to foster City-County partnerships to build and preserve attainable housing, to reduce barriers to new development, and to explore using County land for new housing projects.

I’d balance that work with protecting community and natural resources. Working to increase access to affordable, quality childcare is an investment in the County. I firmly believe in the great work done by United Way of Missoula County, Zero to Five, Missoula Chamber of Commerce and the COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) childcare task force. It is a community responsibility to develop healthy, resilient children and provide a path forward towards successful livelihoods. I’m committed to making high quality early childhood education and care accessible. Providers must be well-compensated and families and parents supported. This is an investment that will pay dividends, that will create ethical problem solvers, compassionate leaders, quality employees and business owners, and engaged citizens.

I support the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, 100% clean electricity by 2030, and carbon neutrality for County operations by 2035 (with an interim goal of 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2016 levels by 2025). It’s important to make climate resiliency part of our culture regarding wildfire smoke, heat and health, buildings, land use and transportation. There’s never been a better time to adopt and implement climate resiliency. Climate solutions must integrate with social determinants of health such as housing, safe streets, green space, mental health and access to food. This is what is expected of the Missoula County Commission. The need has never been clearer. As we mitigate the insidious costs of climate destruction we will reduce the expense of dealing with extreme flooding, drought and poor health. We will deliver economic benefits to County residents and our County budget for years to come.

Do you see a gap in the policies made in Missoula County between the urban and rural? Yes, but in part it’s a matter of differing perspectives and perceptions, fed by fear and a lack of trust. Policies should respect and value the lived experience while at the same time folks should believe in themselves enough to ask for help, believe that they are worthy of help. It’s the County’s job to identify where resources are needed to serve residents and build policies that advantage success. If yes, how would you bridge that? I grew up on a ranch where there is no shortage of frustrated stories about government bureaucracy and regulation. That said, our ranch is in the Blackfoot Valley where there is also a culture of collaboration and trust in public private partnerships. Six years ago our ranch had to undertake a massive infrastructure update. It was terrifying to consider. But the County’s various regulating departments and agencies worked with us to help craft a plan to be successful. It’s important to remember that no matter who you are we’re all just people trying to muddle along and achieve our dreams. Good, common sense policies will not inflame either urban or rural sensibilities.

Are there any projects/ideas you would initiate as commissioner? I was

appointed to the current Missoula County Commission when many projects— Trinity attainable/supportive housing, Mullan Area Master Plan, zoning code update, jail diversion, 100% clean electricity, climate and fire resiliency, 2018 Open Space Bond for agricultural soil and habitat conservation— were beginning to sprout.

My goal is to support their development to yield fruit and nourish our community. Over the next few years, thoughtful leadership, shrewd budgeting and advocating for these and other initiatives will be critical to all of our success. Let me continue to work to serve and support the people, services and lands of Missoula County.

Anything else? Thanks to the Pathfinder for this opportunity to share exciting programs and possibilities for the health and welfare of our County citizens.

Alan Ault (R) Biography

• Where do you live? Missoula City

• How long have you lived in Montana? 20 years

• Experience that makes you suitable for the position: Served on Missoula Planning Board, was on the last Missoula Government Study Commission, Big Brother, CASA volunteer, started Montana Auto Tech - which is a non-profit that works with Missoula County Public Schools to bring auto mechanics back into our schools. We train, with local community volunteers and auto related business, high school boys and girls the auto mechanic vocation. We have now moved into Sentinel High School, from our own facility. Career was as a Business Manager and Cost Engineer for two major oil companies, managing finances, sub-contracts and personnel on projects larger than the County’s budget. An interesting part of my career was being a troubleshooter for projects and contractors that had gone bad. I was also the president of an Employee Association (non-paid position) representing over 5,000 employees.

• Family or anything else you want voters to know: Married with three children and 11 grandchildren, both natural and adopted

• Website and contact information: Facebook: Ault for county commissioner; Email:; Phone: 406-370-4365; Mailing Address: Ault for County Commission, PO Box 1101, Missoula, MT 59806

Do you feel the current Missoula County Commission represents the county well? Why or why not? Not at all. What I hear from people, there is no difference between Missoula County and Missoula City. People I have talked to in, what I call the forgotten cities and towns in Missoula County, feel they are just that - forgotten. No representation or concern for their problems. I hear constantly that we don’t need three commissioners, just one because there is no diversity. While door knocking, I discovered that some people thought Mayor Engen was a County Commissioner as well! No transparency - want to waste some time? Go on the county web site and see how much of your money the County has spent on the Sleepy Inn.

What major issues do you see facing our county in the next few years? Next few years? It will be a carry-over of the problems we have right now. Excluding COVID-19, the problems of growth, sewers, taxes, road conditions, annexation, frivolous spending, zoning issues, lack of transparency, people losing their homes and ranches because they no longer can afford them, complex and ridiculous regulations, the expanding homeless (did you know there is a camp in Bonner?) the list continues to grow. And I do recognize that some people have no problem paying increasing taxes, as many have told me. I am concerned about those who can’t or are struggling.

If you were elected, how would you work to solve them? I keep a top 10 list of problems. The way I will approach problems is quite the same. Identify the problem and put it into simple language. Get opinions from all involved - the Commissioners, the public, staff, legal and any other sources. Brainstorm possible solutions and courses of action. Present solutions and follow through. Then constantly monitor if the solution is effective and working. If not, take corrective action. This process works for a family that wants to subdivide their ranch to give to their family or to a developer wanting to put in a subdivision in the County.

In office I will first meet with the other two commissioners and get their views in identifying the specific problems and how they view their solutions or courses of action. Review what input came from the people: find a common ground and reasonable solution and plot a course of action. Meet with staff and ask the same questions of them and what the public comments and feelings are throughout the process.

Do you see a gap in the policies made in Missoula County between the urban and rural? If yes, how would you bridge that? Yes, I would identify the problems that create the gap. As I see it, it is assumed if its good for Missoula City its good for the entire county. We get into the forgotten cities here again. One example is that the sewers and water problems are used as a leverage to annex more land to satisfy Missoula City’s appetite for more money. (Is Mullan Road really a flood district? And how about those sewers in Bonner?) It gets back to the approach of problem solving - identify the problem, interview ideas for solving, set a course of action, monitor.

Are there any projects/ideas you would initiate as commissioner? Recycling and clean energy. For example, I would like a tour of Republic Services recycling facilities to see what problems they have and how the County can help solve them. Also I would quit wasting money on consultants. You have a University to tap into as well as a staff that should be qualified to solve problems. Remember, a consultant is someone you pay a lot of money to tell you the answer you want to hear.

Anything else? Please vote for me and give me the opportunity to work for you.


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