Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, Democrat, announced his candidacy for re-election. The run is for his fourth full-six year term. Kennedy said that the primary reason he is running for re-election is because he loves the job and the people of Yellowstone County.
Kennedy was first elected as County Commissioner in 1992 when he successfully ran to complete two years of a term being vacated by Dwight McKay.
The job is a challenging one, and Kennedy said, “I’m willing to keep meeting the challenges. I haven’t run out of steam, yet.”
The job is a wide-ranging one, with many unpredictable events that makes each day different. From tornados, to oil spills, to droughts, the issues and events which confront county government know no time constraints. County commissioners are on call after hours, on weekends and holidays.
A native of Billings, Kennedy came to politics after having first been a teacher. Kennedy said he has no idea if there will be anyone challenging him in his bid for re-election.
As Kennedy looks back over his 19 years in office with pride, he points out that he has played a role in the development of a wide range of road projects, which is one the most important aspects of the job. The Shiloh Road project, the Airport Road and the first phase of the Bench Connector — all have been achieved through his tenure.
The county also restructured its road and bridge department, hiring a public works director, and functioning in a more efficient manner than ever before, said Kennedy.
Meeting the transportation needs of the county, is part of meeting the challenges of growth in Yellowstone County, which is what Kennedy expects to see as a continued challenge over the next term. He notes that Yellowstone County was one of the few counties in the nation to grow by two percent over the past year, while the economies of most counties actually declined. Posed as the county is, as the energy hub it is going to continue. “We will be the business center,” avows Kennedy, “We have great opportunities in education, health, retail and new businesses. The county’s strength lies in the fact that it is so diversified. We are working for growth and creating good paying jobs.”
The county is helping to achieve those things through tax incentives and by being frugal in its management.
“Yellowstone County is smooth running,” said Kennedy, contending that that helps contribute to the county’s economic well being. It was because of the county’s fiscal strength that they were able to respond so rapidly to the destruction of Rimrock Auto Arena. The county had resources to draw upon to have the facility back up and running again, in less than a year – an important factor since MetraPark is “an economic driver in the community.”
The community’s strength in providing medical care attracts many seniors, pointed out Kennedy, and he has focused closely on making sure the county has the resources needed to meet their needs. He has worked with the Council on Aging to maintain programs like “Meals on Wheels,” and keeps in close touch with seniors by visiting their meal sites and talking to them. “If you want to know what’s going on, you talk to the seniors,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy is especially proud of his efforts in regard to veterans over the years, which has resulted in establishing a Veterans Memorial on the Courthouse Lawn, as well as a Purple Heart state memorial. He has also been instrumental in the development of the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery, which he hopes will soon be given national status.
“I learned in 2004 that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” commented Kennedy, in regard to his failed attempt to get elected to the position of Secretary of State. He’s not unhappy about that loss. “In the long run it was meant to be,” he said, “I kept the job I really love.” He is also happy to be able to be closer to home and more involved with his family.
He and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Ann (and John) Earley, and Erin. They recently became grandparents of John Thomas Earley.
The Big Sky Business Journal
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Billings, MT 59103