Two longtime elected officials in Yellowstone County say they will seek re-election again this year, while at least one courthouse veteran, Max Lenington, has announced he will retire.

“I’m putting myself out to pasture,” Lenington, the county’s treasurer, assessor and superintendent of schools, said Monday.

Thursday is the first day for filing for the 2014 election cycle. Seven county offices and two state district judgeships in the 13th Judicial District are up. A third judgeship will be filled by appointment to replace Susan Watters, who became a U.S. district judge in Billings.

The filing period closes March 10. The primary election will be June 6. The general contest is Nov. 4.

In addition to Lenington’s post, the other county offices up for election include commissioner district 1, sheriff, auditor, both justice of the peace positions and the county attorney.

Lenington, 69, a Republican, who has worked for the county for 44 years and was first elected in 1982, said eight terms was “probably enough.”

Lenington said he had “pretty well decided” to retire before he came under fire last year for using his government email account to send bigoted and racist messages.

A county investigation also found Lenington had set up an inappropriate account with an electronic financial services firm in his and the county’s name to buy equipment.

County commissioners rejected Lenington’s offer to retire at the end of 2013 if the county would pay him his salary for 2014. Instead, the commissioners called on him to resign. Lenington said previously he would retire.

Although Justice of the Peace Pedro Hernandez and his wife, Auditor Debby Hernandez, both said in 2010 they would retire at the end of their four-year terms in 2014, they have changed their minds.

“We both sat down and talked about it and decided to do it again. I picked up papers for re-election,” said Judge Hernandez, 72, on Monday. Hernandez, who is starting his 40th year on the bench, said he thinks he is the state’s longest-serving judge. The post is nonpartisan.

“Why would I give up something I like to do? I enjoy it. I have fun with it. I think Yellowstone County and the city of Billings have faith in me. I think they appreciate the fairness and the impartiality that I have,” Hernandez said.

Debby Hernandez, 62, a Republican, who has worked for the county for 33 years, said she’s too young to retire.

“I love what I do. I love the work. We’re too young to retire. That’s the bottom line. As long as both of us are healthy and well, why not?” she said.

Debby Hernandez will be seeking her fourth term as auditor.

Justice of the Peace David Carter, a former deputy county attorney who was appointed by the commissioners and sworn into office on Dec. 31, already has said he will run for election. Carter replaced former Justice of the Peace Larry Herman, who retired.

Commissioner John Ostlund, 61, a Republican, plans to file for his third six-year term on Thursday and his signs are ready.

“I’ve been gearing up for the last six months. I’m excited about it. I’ll be well funded and have a great campaign committee put together. I’m ready to go,” he said. Ostlund said he already has raised more than $9,000 for his campaign. Ostlund’s district includes the southern part of Billings and the county, but he is elected by all voters.

Sheriff Mike Linder, 55, a Republican, also said he will seek a second term. He defeated former Sheriff Jay Bell at the polls in 2010.

Linder’s proposal to expand the jail to accommodate more inmates is one of the projects the sheriff said he wants to see through.

The commissioner, sheriff, auditor, justice of the peace and treasurer positions all pay an annual salary of $63,165.

County Attorney Scott Twito, a Republican first elected in 2010, could not be reached for comment on Monday. The four-year position pays $117,600.

District Judge Gregory Todd, 63, said he will seek re-election to the six-year post. Todd was appointed in 2000 to replace retiring Judge Maurice Colberg. Todd ran unopposed in 2002 and again in 2008. District judges are paid $117,600 by the state.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh, 72, is reported to have said Monday is retiring and will not seek re-election. He was first elected in 1984.



Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.