The Billings mayoral race is generating some attention lately with ballots out in the mail to narrow the field down to the final two candidates on a November 7 ballot. ‘Mayor of Billings’ may sound like a big deal with the title, an office and an annual salary of less than $10,000 year. OK, so maybe it’s more presence than influence considering the City has a City Manager and a City Council. It’s not like it’s Missoula and taking down Mountain Water or even Helena with Jim Smith who has…wait, what does Jim Smith do? Back to Billings, it is Montana’s largest city after all.
One candidate in particular has big plans for the office and believes he’s got the leadership experience to make that happen. Termed out Representative Jeff Essmann is spending a lot of time and a lot of money in his efforts to land a new job in government, albeit elected, but still on the dole. Essman has gone so far as to announce that he will ‘…get to work on infrastructure projects while avoiding new taxes.’ Think about that, which old taxes will be used and which services of the City of Billings will no longer be offered. Add to that Essmann’s failure to exert his ‘leadership’ to increase revenues or pass an infrastructure bill in not one session, but two. Hell, let’s go all the way back to his entrance into the legislature in 2005.
So on that 2017 session that Essmann used his experience in, Essmann would proudly say the feather in his cap was blocking legislation that would have allowed counties to save tens of thousands of dollars by using a mail ballot in a special election. A special election that ultimately sent his good friend, and now convicted body slammer, Greg Gianforte to Congress. Aside from that, Essmann snuck away from his duties at the Capitol for a few days to watch his hero, Donald Trump, take the oath as President. Oh and he spends a lot of time on twitter simply retweeting with the occasional snarky comment. He’s very good at it. The best. Really.
If you were to believe Essmann’s own account of his leadership skills you would believe he not only kept his own party intact, but that he also reached across the isle constantly to move important legislation that positively impacts Montana. If you were to believe that you would be wrong. State Senator Jen Gross called Essmann out for his failures in the 2017 session with her recent letter in the Billings Gazette. Then came an odd tweet exchange with former Representative Mike Miller who clearly shows no support or confidence in Essmann. Then again, it’s a little dicey to take Miller’s word for it, given his conviction for campaign practices, to include being banned from running for office.
Gross didn’t come right out and say it, but come on Billings, you can do better than this.Essmann appears to be one of those termed out legislators who desperately needs a place to land. Given his career of being in the way, he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘get out of the way’ or how to make a graceful exit. Then again, it could be that Essmann is in search of another government health plan now that he’ll get kicked off the state health insurance plan. At least he’ll get to keep his government pension with a defined benefit. Wait! Does that make Essmann a socialist?
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’