Intelligent Discontent

Derek Brown Retires as Lewis & Clark County Commisioner


Yesterday, Republican Derek Brown announced his resignation as a Lewis & Clark County Commissioner, only four years into a six-year term.  He described the partial term as “four yours [sic] of the most frustrating and disappointing time of my entire career.” He resigned after failing a second attempt to get a pro-developer ally on the Commission.

Brown has long complained of being the minority of the commission’s many 2-1 votes. But instead of working with fellow commissioners, he’s actively campaigned against them. In 2010, he supported third-party candidate Bob Hollow, a spoiler running against sitting Commissioner Mike Murray. This year, he endorsed Mike Fasbender’s challenge, commending Fasbender’s “clean campaign” despite the use of thousands in PAC money from the Montana Conservative Coalition. The Conservative Coalition is funded by $10,000 from the Helena Building Industry Association and is under investigation for not reporting all of its contributions.

It is impossible to build trust while campaigning against your fellow commissioners. This type of campaigning is so destructive that Mike Mansfield prohibited it in the U.S. Senate.

There may have been valid reasons why Brown failed to get any support for his policies like plumbing the entire valley. Perhaps current residents weren’t interested in covering the costs for developers to build homes in neighboring lots?

More importantly, Brown failed his primary responsibility to the voters he represents. Instead of finding compromise, Brown undermined trust and worked to replace his coworkers. He gave up when he couldn’t stack another developer onto the Commission.

Next steps: The County Republicans will choose three possible replacements to fill the rest of Brown’s term. The two remaining commissioners will make the final appointment.


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Tyler Evilsizer

Raised in Helena, Tyler's particularly passionate about the environment, transparency, and wonky budget policy. Currently, he is finishing a master's degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The views expressed are his own.

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