A lively primary election is shaping up for county attorney in 2014, while Republicans of Missoula County will again try to break up the first all-Democratic Board of County Commissioners.

Sheriff Carl Ibsen said Monday he plans to follow through on the intentions he announced four years ago to serve one term and retire.

County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg and Justice of the Peace John Odlin are also calling it quits after years in the public service arena.

But most of the county’s elected officials whose terms are set to expire in a year are limbering up arms to throw their hats back in the ring.

That includes Michele Landquist, who’ll complete her second rotation as chair of the county commissioners in a couple of weeks.

“I’d really be honored if I was elected to a second term of county commissioner,” Landquist said Monday. “I think we’re still doing a lot of important work that needs to be done, and I care about Missoula County and that’s why I want to do this for another six years.”

Other incumbents who say they’ll pay their fees during the 60-day filing period beginning Jan. 9 include Vickie Zeier, the county’s clerk and recorder and treasurer since 1993; superintendent of schools Erin Lipkind and Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech. County auditor Barbara Berens is also expected to run again, though she couldn’t be reached Monday for confirmation.

All are Democrats with the exception of Orzech, whose JP position is nonpartisan.

There’ll be no Missoula County district judge races in 2014 – Robert “Dusty” Deschamps, John Larson, Ed McLean and Karen Townsend each has a term of at least two more years.

Three longtime Missoula attorneys have filed finance paperwork with the state Commissioner of Political Practices in quests to succeed Van Valkenburg as county attorney. Jason Marks is a deputy attorney in Van Valkenburg’s office; Kirsten Pabst and Josh Van De Wetering both served stints in the county attorney’s office and are now in private practice.

All made public announcements of their intentions in recent months after Van Valkenburg signaled his intention not to run for a fifth four-year term. All three are Democrats, which figures to make a lively scenario at the primary election on June 3. So far, no one has indicated a candidacy for Missoula County attorney as a Republican.


Sgt. T.J. McDermott filed his statement of candidacy for sheriff/coroner with the Commissioner of Political Practices in August. He filed as a Democrat to replace Ibsen, who ran in 2010 as an Independent against Democrat Brad Giffin and Republican Nick Lisi.

Ibsen, who turns 63 next year, kept the door slightly open Monday on another run.

“I have no intention right now,” he said. “Obviously there are a few months left (to file), but I don’t see it changing. I’ll have just about 43 years in (law enforcement), and then you add military time for a couple of years before that.”

His sons are both career military and Ibsen said he gets to see his grandchildren only on occasion.

“I’m going to retire and spend some time with them,” he said.

Odlin, who has served as Justice of the Peace for 18 years, will serve as treasurer in the campaign for his own seat of Matthew Lowy, a deputy Missoula County attorney. Lowy got the jump on everyone in the county, filing his statement of candidacy with the state in May.

It’s early, but no one from either party has surfaced to challenge Landquist for her commission seat. She was a political unknown in 2008 when she unseated Republican Larry Anderson, who had been appointed the year before to serve out the term of one of the county’s longest-sitting commissioners, Barbara Evans.

Landquist joined Jean Curtiss and Bill Carey on the board, making it Missoula’s first all-Democratic commission triumvirate in more than 60 years.

Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at (406) 523-5266 or by email at kbriggeman@missoulian.com.

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Mineral County, Veterans Issues Reporter

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian