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Category: Political turmoil in Ruston


Ruston mayor resigns

Ruston’s circus-like political theater has led to another early departure of an elected official.

Mayor Michael Transue, who has been involved in tense arguments with the Town Council over the future of the town, announced his resignation at Monday night’s council meeting.

Transue, who has held office since 2005, had more than a year left in his term.

“Our town government is presently functioning neither cohesively nor in a fashion that benefits the good people of our town,” Transue wrote in his resignation letter, which was distributed at the meeting. “A hostile, rancorous and sometimes ill-manned environment permeates many of our Town Council meetings and study sessions.

“I have worked hard to guide this council and our community and to provide thoughtful insight, but to little avail.”

The council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday to name an interim mayor.

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Listen to Ruston’s difficulties

I’ve converted two Ruston meetings to digital format. If you weren’t at the Jan. 14 study session or the Jan. 22 town council meeting, you’re in for a treat.

At the study session, bickering led to an early adjournment. A link to the audio of the few minutes before and after the meeting ended is here.

And a week later, Councilman Bradley Huson’s new rules of order at the meetings upset many. I begin with Mayor Michael Transue speaking, an outburst from audience member Jim Wingard, then, well, you can just listen… The link is

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Frustration from Ruston residents

I talked with a few Ruston residents – ones that more or less stay out of the political fray – to get their take on what’s going on in the small town.

Sandra Alvstad, a 12½-year resident, isn’t happy with the situation.

"I don’t think it’s productive," she said. "I think it’s creating a lot of inefficiencies, and it’s not logical to me. I can’t figure out what’s driving this. It’s some root cause that we haven’t found yet. A lot of people blame it on The Commencement project, but it seems like it goes deeper than that. There are too many emotional issues."

Ruth Campbell said it’s flared tempers across the town.

"It’s gotten everybody irritated, and it’s got everybody fighting with each other," she said. "The majority of people all feel that it’s just wrong – the way that it’s done and the way it’s carried out."

But many residents aren’t taking it personally.

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Professor weighs in on small-town politics

I’m finishing up reporting on Ruston and decided to get the academic view on small-town politics, so I called James J. Lopach , the chair of the political science department at the University of Montana. He’s worked with small towns across Montana, so he has a pretty good view of the phenomenon.

For some places, the political turmoil has caused a deadlock.

"In recent years, I’ve seen two towns that have become dysfunctional because of the divisiveness in the city government," he said. "Both had to bring in outside mediators just to make it work – almost like

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Huson tees off on the status quo of Ruston politics

Bradley Huson is fiery. He garnered 163 votes – the most last election among the four candidates standing for two open seats on Ruston’s town council – and says he has mandate from the voters to change the status quo.

Nor does he pull any punches or hesitate to use the tools at his disposal to get what he wants. At the last town council meeting, he proposed (and the council approved with a 3-1 vote) a set of rule changes that limited public input. The changes followed public outbursts at a previous meeting – and were followed by outbursts when he proposed them. But they were necessary, he said, and he’s unapologetic.

"We’re not going to have any more outbursts like that because I have had it with the (bull)," he said. "Somebody has got to take control of that meeting and run it in a businesslike fashion. I deal with rich, crazy people all day, and I’m not going to deal with crazy people all night. There’s nothing in it for me. The only reason I ran for this office is to get something done. I’m not going to sit with a bunch of psychos in the evening under fluorescent lights and has over crap that makes the meetings five times longer than it should be. It’s ridiculous. … I feel that we have given everyone every opportunity to conduct themselves as human beings. These people are crazy, and I’m just not going to stand for it anymore."

I asked him if he understands why some would be upset. Sure, he said:

"They’re like caged animals. They have no political power. They’re scared and they’re like caged animals. When you throw a bunch of animals in a cage and scare them, that’s how they behave: like the town council meeting. That’s what the problem is. The Karen Picketts, the Torbets, those people have lived in town forever. This is the first time in the history of this town that they have absolutely no power. They have no voice. The only voice they have is the mayor – and he’s not going to be behind them 100 percent of the time. They’re a frightened group of people because they don’t have any real power. They’re frightened, but they’re also not that bright. Don’t antagonize the people who have to make the decisions on your behalf. Don’t (tick) people off. Even the stupidest child knows that if you (tick) off your parents, you won’t get great Christmas presents. So don’t (tick) off your parents. Be nice to them. Be nice to the people who have control over the things you would like to happen. It doesn’t make any sense."

And there are no plans to drop the rule changes anytime soon.

"Until I’m satisfied we’re getting the business done that needs to get done, and everybody behaves themselves, I’m all for keeping them permanent," he said. "That’s how a lot of other jurisdictions do business. They don’t allow a free-for-all of public comments about what color of toilet paper they have in the men’s room at the police department – which is really what it comes down to at our public meetings. … The whole ramped-up, steam of consciousness BS at council meetings is over. It’s over. I don’t have the time to sit through it. I don’t have the patience to sit through that kind of thing."

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