By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
Montana native Ed Gierke is one of two candidates seeking the position of Mayor of Conrad.
He is running against incumbent Wendy Judisch.
Gierke was born and raised in Fairview and moved to Conrad in 1976 and still lives in the home they built as a family project.
He graduated from Eastern Montana College in Billings in 1974 with a BS degree in Education and is a former educator in the Conrad school system.
The candidate has owned and managed two different small businesses in Conrad.
Talking about professional development, Gierke says there is a drawer full of training certificates in the field of emergency management that include public affairs, incident management, plan development and grant writing. “I have served over 22 years as an emergency manager as a District Representative in northcentral Montanan.”
He was employed by the State of Montana Department of Military Affairs, Disaster and Emergency Servz ices until he recently retired.
He was charged with providing emergency management program oversight for nine counties, three Indian nations and their jurisdictional sub-divisions of cities, towns, and municipalities.
His responsibilities included tasks such as trainer, responder, liaison officer, program manager and grant writer.
Gierke notes that he has worked over 20 federal and state declared disasters in Montana which include the significant fire season of 2000 and 2007 as a liaison officer.
He has been an instructor of many professional development courses for volunteer responders and government employees and had a significant expansion of work responsibility following the terrorist attack of 9-11, resulting in the creation of Homeland Security.
Gierke says the formula for successful government is twofold; Leadership, leading by example, provides tools of success, understand your role and know the issues.
Next is accountability; meeting your goals and objectives, monitor and evaluate, change when change is needed and importantly, listen.
Becoming a candidate for mayor was not an easy decision for Gierke.
He explained the decision to file has been multi-fold. “After working in public service for over 20 years and my retirement on Sept. 27, I had to ask myself and my spouse several questions and ponder the best conclusion.”
During his earlier career, he had to honor a ‘hands off’ approach to the Conrad city government affairs throughout his years of public service in order to not create a ‘conflict of interest’ between federal, state, and jurisdictional government while providing an avenue for federal and state disaster aid for jurisdictions.”
He traveled extensively throughout Montana and worked with elected officials from federal and state government, counties, cities, towns and municipalities during times of crisis.
“I was challenged to not take sides on internal and political issues, but to facilitate the best end result whenever possible. I know many of the inner workings of government, typically finding government to be complex and constantly experience efficiency issues.”
Gierke hopes Conrad will never change. “Conrad,” he says, “is a typical rural community made up by generations of people who were homesteaders and who relish the farm/neighborhood life.”
He goes on to add, “Positive growth is one issue needed to maintain and support its infrastructure and not be a victim of change like my hometown of Fairview has experienced in the Bakken. Growth is good if it is managed with balanced controls without being over restrictive.”
“I have observed Conrad over four decades and have seen the changes in our community. Some changes have been determined and some more beneficial to the family culture I recognized, in Conrad when my family took up residence in 1976.”
Gierke says change is inevitable since the community is no longer a micro-community of its own but more of a regional economy.
The economic environment requires Conrad to know the issues, figure out multiple solutions, and make sound decisions. “Small cities like Conrad cannot afford to ignore issues and make poor decisions,” he said.
Gierke recalls some thoughts Wendy (his soul-mate) and he had the first day they drove though Conrad.
By coincident it was Whoop-Up. “There was a brawl in the middle of Main Street. Sheriff Hammermeister was standing outside the crowd and when someone was knocked down he would grab the person by his belt, lift him up so his toes would barely touch the ground and march him off to jail.”
Their next thought was, Conrad would be a great place to live if the community had paved streets and drinking water did not taste like Pyrex.”
“Well” says Gierke, “today Whoop-Up is fairly peaceful and Conrad has paved streets. Maintaining infrastructure and a safe place to live will be a priority if elected mayor.”
He married his college sweetheart in 1972 and has two children, their spouses and two granddaughters.