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Jane Weber reflects on serving as Cascade County commissioner

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Posted at 10:51 AM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 12:51:49-05

GREAT FALLS — In 2010, Jane Weber was on the verge of retirement. She had worked for 31 years in the Forest Service, and was ready for a change. She was 55 at the time, but had some doubts about retiring.

Then, former Cascade County Commissioner Peggy Beltrone resigned, and Weber was appointed to the seat. Although it was a more policy-driven job, she said it spoke to what she loves about working in local government.

“I like solving problems for people," she said.

Now, after serving more than 10 years as a Cascade County commissioner, Weber will retire on January 22. On Friday, she talked with MTN’s Zach Schermele for a look back on her long career in local politics. Here are a few questions we posed, and her responses, edited for length and clarity.

MTN: What was your mindset going into this job 10 years ago?

Weber: "I’m a career public servant. I did 31 years with the Forest Service. So for me to move into county government was just a way for me to extend public service in a different way, because it’s more policy-driven in a different way. For me, it was just an extension of a different kind of public service career."

MTN: Looking back what stand out as some of your greatest accomplishments?

Weber: "First and foremost for me is forging relationships with the employees in Cascade County. I have what I would call some deep friendships with people. People I had never known before. And had I not taken this position, or been appointed to this position, I would not have been able to meet those people and have an opportunity to grow myself and learn about county government and be coached by people that I work with who surround me. And the second thing I’ll say is I don’t make any decision alone, because it takes two commissioners to make a decision. So anything I say relating to accomplishments that I’m proud of, it took two commissioners to do that.

(On the Cascade County courthouse renovation) One of the things I’m very proud of is the copper roof on the courthouse, which cost $4 million but will last my lifetime and probably well beyond my own children’s lifetimes because the last roof lasted a hundred years.

(On renovation of the old jail) But just across the street, I’m very proud of a project that I was very involved with and that is the old jail …. With the help of the Great Falls Development Authority, we were able to have removed the lead-based paint and the asbestos in that building.

(On the Montana ExpoPark) We’ve done some fabulous things at ExpoPark. If anything good came out of the pandemic, we dedicated ExpoPark’s budget — and then some — to basically doing renovations over there the best we could, because we couldn’t have events.

(On superfund sites) Black Eagle is a community that reminds me of a community where I grew up … And I just have great admiration for the closeness that the people in Black Eagle have for each other, and how the community wants to work together. And the superfund site up there was very disturbing for folks, but it is going to allow us to be able to eventually clean up yards, so that people can feel comfortable about having gardens in their back yards again, and eating vegetables, and it’s going to be better for the community all the way around.

(On Fox Farm road reconstruction) We worked quite closely with our Public Works director on that to develop a rural special improvement district out there so we could fund rebuilding that road. And we coordinated it so that when the sections of the road that were in the city and the highway department was actually doing the renovation on that, we were able to coordinate our movement so that it dovetailed together… The timing was perfect.

(On saving the Monarch depot) It took multiple meetings, but we actually were able to orchestrate to have that depot, and the land it sits on, transferred to the county. And the county was able to gift it to a nonprofit organization who is now totally renovated that historic depot. And it’s back to looking like it was over 80 years ago."

MTN: Do you have confidence in whoever your replacement may be that this office will be in good hands?

Weber: “I think we’ll be fine. There were seven very qualified individuals that expressed interest to the Democratic Central Committee. I am very confident, because I know the names of the seven, that there will be a qualified person sitting in this desk."