Havre Daily News, October 9, 2018
Democrat Paul Tuss of Havre is challenging Montana Sen. Russ Tempel, R-Chester, for a seat in the Legislature in Senate District 14.
Tuss said he has been executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp. for 18 year this fall and has been involved in economic development in north-central Montana for 23 years.
“I have a lot of experience in working both in the private sector as well as the public sector,” Tuss said, “and to make the economy of rural northern Montana succeed and flourish you really need both of those worlds to be successful.”
Tuss, 53, said he was born in Anaconda, the youngest of five children, and grew up in Opportunity. He graduated from Anaconda Senior High School in 1983, then attended the University of Montana, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1988.
At the University of Montana he met Pam Hillery, his wife of 27 years before she died in 2016. Tuss has two children, son Dolan, 25, who lives in Havre, and daughter Caroline, 18, who is a freshman at the University of Montana in Missoula.
Tuss has served on a variety of boards, such as the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education, which he has been on since 2011 and was also the chair of for three years; Montana Economic Developers Association, where he also served as chair; the Board of Directors for the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce; Board of Trustees for Northern Montana Hospital; Board of Directors for the Montana Cooperative Development Center, and Board of Directors for the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association.
Tuss has never held an elected office.
Tuss said that throughout his life he has worked for Montana’s rural communities, to improve local economies, and skills he learned in the process would be a great asset in the Montana Senate.
“One of the things that I want to bring to the state Senate, should I be elected in November, is this notion that we can have great communities and a great economy at the same time,” he said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. And, frankly, doing just that has been the work of my life for almost a quarter of a century. I want to take that experience with me to the state Senate.”
Education is another focus point, Tuss said. With his being the longest serving member on the current Board of Regents for Montana, he has been deeply involved in the university system. He added that, throughout the years, he has grown to fundamentally understand the importance higher education has for Montana youth.
It is vital that higher education remains accessible and affordable to the younger generation, Tuss said, adding that education is what drives workforce development and economic development.
“I feel very fortunate that I am a product of Montana’s public education system, K-12 and also higher education,” Tuss said. “Generations before ours made the investment to make my education possible and made me a more productive citizen, made me a more productive worker, made me a more productive Montanan.
“The least that we can do for our kids and grandkids is to give them the same type of attention,” Tuss added, ” … the same opportunity that we’ve been given to be productive citizens, to be tomorrow’s workforce. Investing in education has got to be a priority and should not be partisan.”
He said his unique experience and perspective on the subject would be a great asset if elected, adding that education is one of the biggest things facing legislation, for him, in the future.
At the end of last year when the special legislative session took place, Tuss said, the Legislature was forced to cut some programs due to a budget shortfall. He said these cuts were a result of the Legislature not taking some of the options that were presented to them.
“(The Legislature) didn’t take advantage of some of the revenue-enhancing options that they had the opportunity to,” Tuss said, adding that because of this it created a budget crisis.
“A great example,” Tuss said, “of where hyper-partisanship, even at the state level, is getting in the way of what is a very fundamental constitutional responsibility of the Montana Legislature, and that’s to create a balanced budget.”
Tuss said it is imperative that these well-intentioned, smart people who hold these offices come together and create a budget which both sides can agree on.
He said he understands that, if elected, he will be only one of 150 legislators but hopes to bring with him a real understanding of working together.
“Compromise is not a dirty word,” he said, adding that he has “a real understanding that someone other than me might have a good idea.”
“If I can have even a small impact on illuminating some of that intense partisanship and trying to get people to work together to solve difficult problems in our state, I will consider my time in the Senate to be successful,” Tuss said.
Tuss said another concern which needs to be addressed in future legislative sessions is to adequately fund Montana’s infrastructure. He said the state has a crumbling infrastructure and needs to have people willing to invest in it. The problem is not going to fix itself, Tuss said, adding that to postpone improvements would be a disservice to the people.
“The state needs to keep its commitment to communities to keep a solid infrastructure,” he said.
In addition to infrastructure, Tuss said, it is vital to do everything possible tomaintain local hospitals, adding that many in the state are hanging by a thread. People need medical attention in emergencies, he said. If local hospitals vanish in a community, the community will follow soon after, the same applying to schools, he said.
“Rural areas need to be adequately covered with proper health care and hospitals to remain open,” Tuss said.
A subject which is also significant to him, he said, is assuring public access to lands, nothing being more fundamental to Montanans than the freedom to enjoyteh beauty of their state. He added that this will be a high priority if elected.
“These public lands should be cherished and really should be passed down to the next generation in the same condition that we’ve been given them, and assuring that people continue to have – citizens of the state continue to have – access to our public lands to hunt, and to fish, and to hike. I just think that is just so important,” Tuss said.