The Bitterroot Star requested the following information from all candidates who have challengers in this election cycle.
• brief bio and photo
• statement of why you are running and the issues that are important to you
• your opinion of how the state is handling the COVID-19 situation
Here are their responses, in their own words.
I am a Corvallis resident, fourth-generation Bitterroot native. I with my family own and operate Huls Dairy Inc. northeast of Corvallis. I graduated from Corvallis High School and attended Northern Montana College, studying agriculture before purchasing farmland and beginning my agricultural career. My wife, Joan, and I have two sons and two grandchildren who reside in Ravalli County.
My community involvement over the years has proven my commitment to my family, neighbors, and visitors to the Bitterroot Valley. I have been involved with youth sports coaching baseball, football, and motocross.
I presently serve on a number of boards, including Teller Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Mountain West Cooperative, the Corvallis Canal and Water Company, and Humble
Drain. I am a member of the Ravalli County Right to Farm & Ranch Board, and serve on the advisory committee for the Western Montana Agricultural Research Center.
I have served on various statewide committees regarding agriculture, and served on the Ravalli County Planning Board for over 10 years. I am also a past president and board member of the Montana State Motorcycle Racing Association.
I am running for Ravalli County Commissioner because, first and foremost, I love this beautiful piece of Montana where generations of my family have been blessed to live. I
believe that my experience in business, my experience in service as a volunteer on boards that advise local government, and my involvement in leading both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations will be valuable in guiding Ravalli County into the future. My career in agriculture, and in particular dairy, has always demanded dedication and a strong work ethic. Problem-solving skills are tested daily, we’re on-call 24/7, and a great amount of collaboration, care, and compassion are required every day. These are all valuable qualities I would bring to the table as county commissioner. I feel that the present Board of County Commissioners is doing a good job, and I would
look forward to adding my voice and perspectives to the many issues the board faces.
The handling of COVID-19 by the State of Montana. I believe the Montana state government has done about as well as could be expected given the directives from the CDC and the unknowns associated with this virus. Given the history of the Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919, where Montana was one of the hardest hit states in the nation, a cautious reaction to COVID-19 did not come as a surprise. In hindsight, the action to shut down the entire state might well be second-guessed, but the decision was made based on what was known about the virus at the time. New information, new theories, and new testing procedures are coming to light every day. It is my hope that the lives of all Montanans will return to normal soon, and that the experiences in handling this pandemic, in terms of both physical well-being and economic vitality, will help inform decision-making in the future.
Initially drawn to Ravalli County and Montana by her singular majestic beauty, I have found that the true wealth and treasure lies in the decency and goodness of her people. Having lived in other parts of the country, I have never seen or experienced a more self-reliant and interdependent community as Ravalli County. I still remember attempting to deliver food in support of those fighting the Roaring Lion fire and was heartened and amazed that on four occasions my contributions were turned away as they had no more capacity to take anything else, so I donated my contributions to the food bank. The community responses on multiple occasions to assist those on the receiving end of misfortune have been characteristically generous and inspired. For the first time in my life, I feel truly at home. I did not have the good fortune to be born here, but after sixteen years here, I know I will never leave. Here, being neighborly is not a slogan, it is a present and constant reality. I am not running for this position for any other reason than to once again answer the call to public service that people have asked me to fulfill.
I have a B.S. degree in Management from St. Mary’s College, Moraga, Ca., and pursued a B.S. from Indiana University, Bloomington, in Music Performance and Comparative Religious Studies through a double degree program.
I have a servant’s heart because I am a person of faith which teaches reflect God’s love through selfless service to others.
I served in public service for twenty-three years as a highly decorated Sgt./Inspector of the San Francisco Police Department, surviving being shot at six times. Recognizing an unmet need, I proposed, implemented, and supervised an interagency elder abuse task force. My training and experience responding to critical incidents – including natural disasters, demonstrations with over 300,000 participants, riots, and hazmat sites – have taught me every major event begins as a local response. How to respond to these situations is not theory to me. I have personally experienced the coordination of interagency responses with local, state and federal agencies. If current events teach us anything, they demonstrate the consequences of inadequate and non-visionary planning.
Responses should be designed in anticipation of extending capabilities beyond the limits of past experiences. It is insufficient to rationalize that as we reach varying thresholds, our response needs will be satisfied by state and/or federal management. It is the obligation of local government to meet the immediate needs of communities. This includes allocation of sufficient resources for first responders and local medical providers to have sufficient equipment to simultaneously react to extraordinary situations, as well as function on a normal level. If our first responders aren’t properly protected, they cannot effectively protect us. They are dedicated to doing the impossible; we should never insist they do the ridiculous. They should be tested daily for COVID-19 infection for their own well-being and ours.
I believe it is advantageous to have a County Commissioner who has professional experience in these matters that enables them to efficiently assess budget requests from allied county agencies in order to facilitate and enhance their responses. I was amazed to see the county’s only hospital literally begging for basic PPE supplies before any patients required COVID-19 services. That level of unpreparedness is inexplicably inadequate; we need more visionary planning.
Prior to my law enforcement career, I worked as a sous chef in Seattle and San Francisco. As such, I am intimately aware of the difficulties maintaining viable operations presents our restaurants, who employ so many valley residents. Upon moving to the Bitterroot Valley, I immediately became involved in the community, first as a volunteer at St. Mary’s Historic Mission and subsequently as a member of its Board of Directors. From this, I learned the historical legacy of Ravalli County is built on cooperation and mutual respect shared between groups of peoples with disparate backgrounds and interests. Subsequently, I became involved in the Ravalli County 4-H program for six years as an archery instructor and then a co-leader of the archery program with Scott Hale. It is from this experience that I was shown the importance of providing hunting access to valley residents on my farm.
Eight years ago, I started Bitterroot Mountain View Farm, following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who was a farmer in New York state. Like my grandfather, I began a commercial trucking operation as an owner-operator, traveling throughout the country. Currently, there is no one on the county commission who is a small business owner. I was asked to seek appointment to the Ravalli County Right to Farm and Ranch board, where I served for several years and spearheaded an attempt to address the issue of crop depredation from wildlife visited upon the farmers of this valley, who lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually due to FWP wildlife management.
Although that attempt was not as successful as we would have liked, it did result in the establishment of special hunting district 262, created to help mitigate crop damage on farms and to provide expanded hunting access on private property. The money lost through crop depredation is money that would otherwise be contributing to the local economy; these losses must be stopped.
Before I started my farm, I was a professional musician who toured extensively with the Henry Mancini Orchestra and the Barry White Love Unlimited Orchestra. I also performed with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra as well as the San Francisco Opera. My experiences enabled me to recognize the importance of well-rounded public education opportunities, a conviction confirmed by watching my two sons grow up in the Stevensville School system (in which my youngest son Vincent, will be a junior this fall). My oldest son, Michael, attended Boys State through the sponsorship of the American Legion Post in Stevi, was elected governor, and then selected for Boys Nation in Washington DC. He graduated from Princeton University last June. Ravalli County helped make that possible. Thank you.
One of the foremost issues I see in Ravalli County is the protection of private property rights, which are fundamental to the American way of life. It is essential for the prosperity of the individual that they have control over their property and destiny. If the county has confidence in your ability to manage your property to the extent that the county benefits by collecting taxes from it, then the county should have at least as much confidence in your ability to manage your own properties to your benefit first and the county’s secondarily. There is no need for a one-size-fits-all zoning policy, excluding incorporated municipalities. The county already has a mechanism in place for citizens who may choose to initiate zoning on their own properties as they deem appropriate, subject to the approval of the county through CZID. Ranchers and farmers are better stewards of the land than any program initiated in and managed from Helena or Washington DC. Environmental policies should be established, prioritized, and managed locally as much as possible.
Our rights are bestowed by God and not through men or governments. Our founders recognized the only form of legitimate governance exists when these rights lie beyond any government reach, particularly our own. These rights and liberties have been protected at great cost on our native soil and others around the world. The selfless sacrifice of past and present generations of our warriors is a legacy of the highest order in human history. I am committed to our veterans and their families. I will not betray them, their honored memories, or your constitutional rights under any circumstances. Fidelity to our constitutional republic as a nation of individual states is not negotiable for me. It is sacrosanct and inviolable.
Our county needs to aggressively combat the tragedy of suicide. The leading cause of preventable death amongst adolescents in the United States is suicide. I recently attended a presentation by the Director of Montana’s Office of Suicide Prevention in Missoula. I learned that prior to its loss of credibility relating to the Wuhan virus, the WHO forecast suicide as the leading cause of death world-wide in twenty years. We have lost the light of at least three young lives in our county this past year alone. From our collective grief and anguish we must offer hope to the hopeless through education, counseling, and public policies which clearly demonstrate our commitment to the intrinsic values of human life and the dignity of the human person in how we treat one another.
When it comes to the health and well-being of citizens, there is no place for political bickering. Decisions must be made based upon accurate and reliable data, not meaningless computer-generated models which have proven to be woefully inadequate due to manipulation. The Ravalli County Health Board relies upon Dr. Carol Calderwood’s medical expertise to formulate the county-level response to the current pandemic. I virtually attended one of the meetings and specifically asked Dr. Calderwood how long it might take to implement COVID-19 testing in order to assure healthy people were not subject to a lockdown. I also asked her if she was familiar with the recently developed Abbott testing. She stated that she was unaware of the Abbott test (a major breakthrough in testing for the virus, which provides test results in five minutes if you are positive or thirteen if you are negative) and questioned its reliability. I was troubled by the fact that she said she was unaware of it after it had been in the news for months and was universally acclaimed as a significant advancement in addressing the need for reliable test data.
My concern is this: if the doctor was unaware of the test, how could she question its reliability? She went on to state that, based on her “feeling,” the level of infection in our county would dramatically increase despite no evidence to-date of community spread. Dr. Calderwood characterized the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus as “great.”
I have not met Dr. Calderwood in-person and I am not questioning her commitment or integrity in any way. Quite the contrary, I honor her service as a medical professional and of those in the trenches fighting for us. However, less than one week aIer our conversation, the governor announced a graduated lifting of shelter-in-place guidelines. One reason for this was the state’s reliance on utilization of Abbott testing. I have since learned from a local physician who uses this test that it has an efficacy rate of over ninety percent; contrast this with the fifty-three percent efficacy of seasonal flu vaccines. Public safety demands that responses to any crisis be fact-driven. We do not have the luxury, nor should we develop the inclination, to chance responses based on emotions.
On the brighter side, we can take solace and comfort that in Montana, unlike other states, infected medical professionals, suspected infected, and infected elders – the most susceptible virus targets – were not subjected to state health department orders to be admitted into senior health care communities. Nor were physicians here prohibited from treating their patients with pharmaceuticals successfully used for nearly sixty-five years in related applications and authorized by the CDC for compassionate use to treat patients due to mere government whimsy and political actors. If those who make public policy cannot fulfill their obligations as adults to truly serve the public they are sworn to serve, then they should be removed from office for a permanent “time out” by voters.
There are those who say they want to join their voice to those of other commissioners. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have a more expansive vision. The only voices I want to join with mine are YOURS. Together we can keep Ravalli County the brightest jewel in Montana’s crown as “the last best place.” With sincerest humility, I seek your support to be your Ravalli County Commissioner from District 2. You can reach me by email at [email protected] and I invite you to visit me on Facebook via Phil Tummarello for Ravalli County Commissioner.