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You Done Good, Gov.
Uncommon Ground
The Whitefish farmer, who earned his political stripes by accompanying busloads of seniors across the Canadian border in search of cheaper medicine, is now termed out from serving as one of the most popular governors in Montana history.

Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer was never elected to office prior to serving as governor. But Schweitzer did a great job serving the people of Montana.

Schweitzer maintained record budget surpluses over his terms, averaging $400 million even during the great recession. And when the “grain in the bin” was high enough, Schweitzer rebated $100 million back to homeowners. He coupled that with another $25 million in homeowner income tax credits.

Never during his eight years as governor did Schweitzer resort to raising taxes.

Schweitzer started and funded all-day kindergarten. He saw to it that public schools were well funded and that tuition in higher education was mostly frozen. Schweitzer also funded Indian education in public schools.

The governor systematically worked to eliminate equipment taxes for small businesses, without burdening homeowners or damaging public school funding.

But notably, when the rest of the nation was enveloped with massive layoffs, Schweitzer commanded leadership by holding Montana to some of the lowest unemployment in the nation.

The governor brought the drums into the Capitol and franchised more Native Montanans with appointments and department directors than any time in our state’s history. He proudly talked about the first Montanans while displaying tribal, state and U.S. flags during ceremonies.

Schweitzer proved a master of thinking on his feet and demonstrated a proud fondness of promoting Montana and our good business and tourism climate.

Schweitzer put Montana back on the national map. He openly balked at federal policies like the Real ID and the Patriot Act.

Montana has a ban on smoking in public buildings and has many powerful windmills because of the governor and his vision. Schweitzer never supported the federal mandate requiring personal health insurance but opened wellness clinics for public employees.

And in epic Schweitzer showmanship, he publicly vetoed “frivolous and unconstitutional” bills with a hot branding iron on the steps of the Capitol. Those vetoes included the Montana Legislature’s attempt to overturn the citizen ban on cyanide leach mining.

Schweitzer stood tall and kept some of the biggest political bullies in the Legislature on their toes. And when a GOP leader told the governor to “shove it …” a classic Schweitzer responded that the Republican was a “good family man.”

Schweitzer has been a good steward for the public. Montana can hope that his successor is willing to fight for what is right and not allow core values to be bullied by an often politically ruthless Legislature.

Honorably, Schweitzer proved that government can be decent and benefit the common good.

Many people have been speculating about Schweitzer’s future. Citizens would be lucky to have another Schweitzer administration managing Montana again in the next decade after the term limit hiatus.

Over time, people may remember Schweitzer’s zest for life with less frequency. But in the Flathead, Schweitzer’s legacy is permanently conserved on the Whitefish Trail and public recreational places like Beaver Lake, Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell’s youth sports complex and Les Mason State Park.

Montana will miss Schweitzer’s bolo ties, business jeans and his loyal companion Jag. But any realist knows that none of Montana’s great policies would have occurred without the brilliantly dedicated Nancy Schweitzer. Here’s hoping for relaxing days on a sunny beach for a beautiful couple.

You have done well, Governor. Montana acknowledges our gratitude with a simple “thank you” for the years of trusted service.

With Schweitzer’s leadership, Montana remains “the best place in the country to start and grow a business, raise a family, and build a community.”
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