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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Cascade County Commission votes to change how its chairperson is chosen

Cascade County commissioners finalized a vote Tuesday to change the way they select their chairperson. They faced a wave of opposition.

County commissioners Jim Larson and Joe Briggs supported having the commission vote to choose its chairperson. They overrode chair Rae Grulkowski’s dissenting vote to pass the ordinance.

Briggs has called Grulkowski an ineffectual leader and said county business hasn’t been moving forward. Commissioner Larson said the panel should be able to vote on its chairperson for the sake of flexibility.

Grulkowski said she felt her fellow commissioners were working against her.

“It’s not important to me to chair,” Grulkowski said. “This is an obligation that was presented to me. It was difficult. I was not going to relinquish it.”

Cascade County residents piled on in support of Grulkowski. Some accused Briggs of attempting to take the position for himself by allowing the panel to vote on its leader. The position has previously rotated between members every two years.

Sharon Thompson serves on the Great Falls neighborhood council. She defended Grulkowski’s experience as a business owner and urged commissioners to keep the current rotation in place.

“These two other commissioners have lost their control and are attempting to regain their domination of the current procedure that is taking place right now,” Thompson said. “And, this needs to be stopped.”

Grulkowski was set to serve a second year as presiding officer, but the commissioners will now vote on their chair when the change takes effect late next month.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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