Bird, Cromley, Crouch, Pitman win in City Council election

2011-11-08T20:10:00Z 2014-08-25T15:23:12Z Bird, Cromley, Crouch, Pitman win in City Council electionBy ED KEMMICK and ROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

Unofficial final results for the Billings City Council elections have incumbent Denis Pitman and newcomers Becky Bird, Brent Cromley and Kenneth Crouch winning in their respective wards.

The Yellowstone County elections office posted the unofficial final results at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Pitman turned back a challenge from former councilwoman Joy Stevens in Ward 2 by a count of 4,024 to 2,442.

In Ward 1, Cromley had 1,842 votes to Frank Keele's 565 and Todd Royal's 716.

Bird had 2,188 votes in Ward 3 to Brian Kenat's 1,558.

In Ward 5, Crouch had 37 percent of the votes with 2,225. Jennifer Olsen had 1,966 votes, and Dennis Ulvestad had 1,804.

In an otherwise quiet City Council race, the Ward 2 campaign heated up late last month when Stevens publicly scolded Pitman for renting space in his Main Street strip mall to the Fiji Spa, which Stevens described as an "erotic massage parlor."

Pitman responded by filing a complaint with the Montana commissioner of political practices, alleging that Stevens had violated the fair campaign practices code by making personal attacks on him. He also accused her of technical violations of rules regarding campaign expenditures.

His complaint was dismissed last week, just a few days after it was filed. The commissioner said there were no rule violations and that his office had no authority to investigate alleged violations of the fair campaign code.

"I'm just happy that people were able to see beyond all of that and see how hard I've worked and how I really care about the Heights," Pitman said. 

He said the outcome made him hopeful about the general election in 2012. Maybe people will stop making personal attacks and concentrate on the issues if the voters show that's what they respond to, he said.

"I'm fairly relaxed," Cromley said earlier in the evening as he awaited returns.

He described his race as positive and spoke well of his two challengers.

"They're both good people," he said.

With the election results in his favor, he said it's now time to work.

"I'm sure it'll be a learning curve," he said. "Hopefully we can make it a short one."

Crouch described his race as one where he spent a lot of time listening to people as he got out and met voters in his ward.

Spending the time listening and learning about the issues and concerns shared by the residents was the most valuable part of the campaign, Crouch said.

Crouch said he's ready to use his listening skills on the council.

"People have told me the first year is a learning year," he said. 

Crouch, Cromley and Bird were endorsed by the Montana Conservation Voters, an advocacy group that focused on environmental issues.

The group didn't get involved with the Heights race, said executive director Theresa Keaveny. Montana Conservation Voters sent out a questionnaire to one candidate, but it was never returned, she said.

Keaveny said the group deals with limited resources and can't get involved in every race it would like to.

The Billings municipal ballot featured 11 candidates in five wards.

Three candidates were vying to replace Ward 1 Councilwoman Peggie Gaghen, who is prohibited by the City Charter from seeking a third consecutive term.

The candidates were Keele, owner of Frank's Towing and Auto Repair; Royal, a part-time auditor at two local hotels; and Cromley, a former state legislator and retired attorney.

Vince Ruegamer was term-limited out this year in Ward 3, and his open seat attracted two candidates: Kenat, a sales driver for General Distributing Co., and Bird, District Court administrator for the 13th Judicial District Court in Yellowstone County.

Three candidates were running in Ward 5, where incumbent Dick Clark was term-limited. They were Olsen, a consulting petroleum engineer; Ulvestad, a security officer at Rimrock Mall; and Crouch, associate minister at Mayflower UCC.

Jani McCall, the incumbent in Ward 4, ran unopposed for her second term on the council.

There are two City Council members in each of the city's five wards, with one position up for election every two years. Council members are elected to four-year terms.

In the only other race on the city ballot, Municipal Judge Sheila Kolar, who was appointed to the position last January, ran unopposed.

Contact Ed Kemmick at ekemmick@billingsgazette.com or 657-1293.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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