North Big Horn County voters elected three new mayors Tuesday, two of whom defeated incumbents.
In Lovell, former councilman Angel Montanez defeated longtime Lovell mayor Bruce Morrison 395-352, riding the crest of a wave of change desired by voters. Montanez received 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Morrison.
Just down the road, challenger Heidi Brightly upended Byron mayor Pam Hopkinson 126-89, garnering 58.6 percent of the vote.
In Deaver’s battle between two councilmen to succeed the retiring Fred Yates in the mayor’s chair, Michael Beyer defeated Gary Fulbright 29-13.
Cowley mayor Joel Peterson and Frannie mayor Vance Peregoy were unopposed in Tuesday’s election.
“I’d like to thank the community for voting,” Montanez said late Tuesday night. “It is because of my love for the town of Lovell that I ran. I would like to see it progress and grow into the great Rose City it once was and will be again.
“Part of that change will be to do an audit so we as a community know where we are starting from and can project where we are going as a town. I look forward to serving our community and working with our local businesses on capturing more tourist dollars and a lot more.”
Montanez said he would like to thank his supporters and entities including the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lovell Woman’s Club, Big Horn Engraving and the Wild Edge.
Asked if he plans any personnel changes, Montanez said, “Right now, everything stays the same. No appointments will be made until I’m satisfied with the work being done. I will be working with each department. He said it is not in his plans to “fire people,” adding, “I want to go in and see what the issues are so I’m not looking from the outside in.”
Morrison was philosophical Wednesday morning.
“You can only run for so long before it catches up with you, I guess,” he said. “It’s very disappointing. I don’t know if people lose faith in you. Apparently the change theme worked.
“It makes you feel bad when you don’t go out on your own terms. I wish Angel luck. I’ll always support this community.”
Morrison has a long record of service in Lovell, elected to the council in 1982 and 1986, elected mayor (then two-year terms) in 1990, ’92 and ’94. After six years away from town politics, he was elected to the council again in 2002, then was elected to a two-year term as mayor in 2004 and four-year terms in 2006 and 2010, giving him 26 years of service over the years.
There will also be a handful of new council members in North Big Horn County, though most incumbents won re-election.
In Lovell incumbents Kevin Jones and Bruce Wolsey were re-elected, beating two challengers in former councilwoman Jodi Lindsay and frequent candidate Stephen Fowler. Jones garnered 419 votes, Wolsey 362, Lindsay 317 and Fowler 284.
In Cowley, Scott Crosby was elected to the council, topping the ticket with 176 votes, while former town employee Nick Sponsel was elected with 131 votes. Out of the running were Daniel Robertson with 98 votes and current councilwoman Diane Badget with 66.
Byron incumbent councilmen Alan Bair and Walter Roman were unopposed for their four-year seats on the council, but in a race for a two-year position, Gary Petrich edged Gary Gruell 110-79.
Unopposed in Deaver were William Camp and incumbent councilman Steve Gillett.
In Frannie, former mayor Shane Roberts topped the ticket in a three-way race for two four-year seats on the town council, receiving 39 votes in Big Horn County and one in Park County for 40 total. Also elected was Mary T. Myers, who received 22 votes in Big Horn County and two in Park for a total of 24. Incumbent Nadine Kreutzer received 14 votes, all in Big Horn County.
Angel Montanez 395
Bruce Morrison 352
Heidi Brightly 126
Pam Hopkinson 89
Michael Beyer 29
Gary Fulbright 13
By David Peck