Dave Palmer, who won Butte-Silver Bow’s top government post convincingly in 2016, said Monday he will seek a second term as chief executive this year.
“I have been talking to my wife for quite a while and finally decided,” Palmer told The Montana Standard from his courthouse office in Uptown Butte. “There is so much still to be done and I think this year there are going to be a lot of good announcements coming out.”
He said there has been great progress on several fronts, including negotiations toward a consent decree that will spell out future Superfund cleanup responsibilities on the Butte Hill, and he wants to see them through.
“It takes a long time to get things moving the way you want to go and I think there is a good team here at Butte-Silver Bow and we are accomplishing a lot,” said Palmer, who will turn 67 later this month.
The filing period for state and local offices in Montana starts Thursday, and so far, Commissioner Brendan McDonough is the only other person who has told The Montana Standard he will run for chief executive.
Commissioner Jim Fisher is considering a run but said Monday he hasn’t made a decision. His District 6 seat on the Council of Commissioners is also on the ballot but he can’t run for both.
Parks Director J.P. Gallagher said last month that he was thinking about a bid for chief executive, too. He said Monday he was leaning against a run but has not made a final decision.
Palmer, an electrician by trade, had served on the Council of Commissioners for 20 years — not all of them consecutively — when he joined four others in challenging first-term incumbent Chief Executive Matt Vincent in 2016.
Palmer finished second to Vincent in the June primary that year but defeated him handily in November. Palmer finished with 9,588 votes, or 59 percent, to 6,764 votes, or 41 percent, for Vincent. Only the top two vote-getters in the primary move on to the general election.
Fisher finished third in the primary in 2016, followed by Cindy Perdue-Dolan, Mark Reavis and Ronald “Sarge” Rowling.
The election filing period starts Thursday and runs through March 9, though there are ways to file as write-in candidates after that.
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Palmer said Monday he expects a proposed consent decree to be made public soon so commissioners and citizens can review it. It has been in the works for more than a dozen years and will set out responsibilities for future mine pollution cleanup on the Butte Hill between Atlantic Richfield, the state of Montana, Butte-Silver Bow and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
All must agree to the plan, including local commissioners, and then it’s expected to take several more years of actual work, followed by some maintenance “in perpetuity.”
“Hopefully we are going to have a rollout of the plan and get it to the public so they can review it, and I think they are going to be happy with what they see,” Palmer said.
“It could take a couple of months of education and having public meetings but I think in the end, the council will think it’s a good idea for Butte,” he said. “I’m just excited there is a possibility of work being done in that corridor.”
Palmer said results should be in soon from Buxton Solutions, a site selection consultant that will provide analytics and tools to help recruit retail businesses to Butte. The county has lost several retailers in the past five years, the most recent being Herberger’s.
“They (Buxton) are supplying us with leads on who to approach,” Palmer said. “Some might be food and some might be department stores, then our economic development group will start prioritizing.”
Palmer said great things are happening at the Montana Connections business park, including $75 million in current construction and development that includes Montana Craft Malt. The National Guard plans to establish a new armory there in the next few years, too.
He also expects more progress on the planned $35 million Praxis Center for Innovative Learning, which would provide high-tech medical simulation training for rural healthcare practitioners in Uptown Butte.
If it pans out, the project could mean 50 to 70 good-paying, full-time jobs and up to 5,000 visitors a year to Butte, many of them doctors, nurses and EMTs.
“All of these things are going to create jobs to support some of the retail that we are going to be going after,” Palmer said.
They are among the things he says he wants to see through if he wins a second term.