After almost 30 years as a Missoula County Commissioner, Republican Barbara Evans is retiring.
“She’s virtually irreplaceable,” said County Commissioner Bill Carey. “We’ve become very good friends.”
In 1978 she was the first woman elected to the County Commission, and in 1985, Evans helped put Missoula on the map as the first county in the nation to be represented by three women.
Even so, Evans says, “that feminism stuff just isn’t in my nature.”
Over the years, her peers have treated her as an equal, but she has had to clarify her position every so often.
“I am not a chairwoman, I am not the chair, I am not a sofa, I am a chairman,” she said.
But now she looks forward to having time off. Her last day is August 30.
“I would like to have a life now. It’s been awhile,” Evans said.
Her longevity, in what can be a pretty thankless job, is impressive, says Will Deschamps Republican Central Committee Chair.
“Here’s a lady that’s spent almost 30 years of her life dedicated to public service,” Deschamps said.
Evans told the Republican Central Committee of her plans to retire about a month ago. She is stepping down now, before her term expires, to give her replacement some valuable on-the-job training before voters select a new commissioner during the next election, Deschamps said.
“I want diversity on this board. If I wait until the election, chances are it would be one political party,” Evans said.
The Republican Central Committee is also looking ahead.
“This would be an opportunity, quite frankly, to give somebody on the job learning before the election,” Deschamps said. “Rather than try to get someone elected that’s cold.”
As mandated by state law, the Republican Committee plans to submit a list of three possible replacements to the remaining commissioners. The commissioners then select an individual to replace Evans, temporarily, until elections are held in November of 2008.
If all goes as planned, commissioners will interview the three candidates on Friday and choose one, Deschamps said. If the commissioners do not select someone from that list, the Republican Central Committee will choose three more candidates. A new commissioner must be selected from those six.
The job is a powerful one. Commissioners supervise the county’s checkbook and influence how the area grows.
“This is an $80 million a year business,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of things that they have say and sway over.”
The remaining commissioners are looking for someone capable of moving forward.
“We want someone who’s looking through the windshield and not the rearview mirror,” Carey said.
Evans’ experience and knowledge will not be easy to replace, Carey said, adding that whoever takes over will have a tough act to follow.
“We didn’t always agree on everything,” Carey said. But, “I’m going to miss her greatly.”