Libby’s newly-appointed mayor is eager to get beyond the problems of the past and focus the attention and energy of the City Council toward solving the issues of the present while looking toward the future.
Brent Teske was officially sworn in as Libby’s new mayor during a special meeting of the council held Wednesday, Sept. 28. Teske replaces Mayor Doug Roll, who resigned the office earlier in the month. Teske was the only applicant for the open office.
“We’ve had enough division and conflict,” said Libby Mayor Brent Teske. “We have things that require our attention and effort and its long past time we got to work addressing those issues.”
Libby’s City Council has been in a near-constant state of turmoil since 2013, when a bitter race for mayor between former mayor Doug Roll and Councilman Allen Olsen spilled out of city hall and into the courts. During the election cycle the city filed suit against Olsen, alleging his residence was not within city limits. Montana 19th Judicial District Judge James Wheelis ruled in Olsen’s favor, and the city later settled with Olsen for nearly $50,000 in legal fees.
After the suit was settled, Libby resident Arlen Magill filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, claiming Mayor Roll, along with former city attorney James Reintsma, current council member Peggy Williams and former council members Barb Desch, Bill Bischoff, Vicky Lawrence, and Robin Benson violated Montana campaign practice laws by improperly using city resources to influence the election, which Roll won by just a handful of votes.
The commissioner agreed, issuing a ruling in May 2015, upholding Magill’s claims. Lincoln County Attorney Bernard Cassidy declined to prosecute the case and referred it back to the commissioner. Roll and the other defendants filed a suit challenging the commissioner’s decision, but no further action has yet occurred on the matter.
Tensions continued to escalate in city hall, leading Olsen to make a public offer to jointly resign with Roll earlier this year. Roll declined the offer. Shortly thereafter, council members Dejon Raines, who has since resigned, Brent Teske, and Brian Zimmerman took to the public podium during a council meeting to call for Roll’s resignation. Roll continued to hold his ground.
The saga continued when Libby resident Tammy Brown initiated a recall effort against Roll. Roll sued Brown and was granted an injunction by Judge Wheelis, but resigned shortly thereafter, citing an inability to work with the council. Four members of the council at the time, Dejon Raines, Allen Olsen, Brian Zimmerman, and Teske, signed the recall petition.
“It is unfortunate that the situation got that far out of hand,” Teske said. “But now we have a chance to right the ship and really move the city forward. It sounds cliché, but it’s time for us to get to work. We need to be looking at our current issues and we need to be thinking about the future of our city and what we want it to be. That’s the job of the city council and the mayor. We’ve had far too many distractions and now we need to leave them in the past and move on. In the past few weeks I’ve seen such an amazing transformation in the city, the demeanor and the attitude of the council and the citizens who participate in the meetings is completely different now, it’s very positive. We can use that energy to heal the city and make a real difference now, and that’s what we need to do.”
The city is now accepting letters of interest from candidates wishing to complete Teske’s term on the council, which ends Dec. 31, 2017. Letters of interest and resumes should be submitted to Jim Hammons, city administrator, by Oct. 14, 2016. The council will interview interested applicants and appoint the replacement at the Oct. 17, 2016, council meeting at Libby City Hall.