Ann Mary Dussault has spent nearly her entire working life in service to the people of Missoula.
She was first elected to a seat in the Montana Legislature back in the mid-'70s, more than 30 years ago. Then, she was elected three more times in a row, and in that time, she became the first woman majority leader in the United States.
Then, in the early '80s, she won the first of two terms on the Missoula County Board of Commissioners, joining former commissioners Barbara Evans and Janet Stevens to operate the nation's first all-woman board of county commissioners.
After losing her third bid for a seat on the county commission, she left Missoula for a brief stint with an economic development group in Portland, Ore. - but before long, she was called back with the news that the county was in need of a new CAO. Dussault easily won the position - and has remained in it for the last seven years.
In that time, she has been credited with helping to iron out more than her share of county wide kinks. Her wry, often blunt manner has been a source of amusement and relief for those who appreciate her ability to cut through nonsense to get at the meat of a matter.
But however you feel about Dussault's methods or her manner, there's no question that her entire career has been aimed at making Missoula a better place for all of us. She came to work every day looking for ways to make it better, and in doing so, she has helped make an office that is by nature full of conflict and inefficiency a place the people of Missoula turn to expecting sensible solutions and fair compromise.
Now, the 62-year-old woman a Missoulian reporter described in March as "the grandmarm of local government" is retiring from her position as CAO of Missoula County. She and chief financial officer Dale Bickell have spent the past few months in preparation for Bickell's transition into her post.
Commissioners Jean Curtiss, Bill Carey and Larry Anderson have seen firsthand the benefits of Dussault's hard work and will no doubt feel her absence keenest, but we will all benefit, in many different ways, from her role at the county's helm for many years to come.
Some careers spent in public service are so long and storied that they deserve a moment of of acknowledgement when they come to an end. Ann Mary Dussault has had such a career.
She worked hard for us - for all of us - with our best interests in mind, and she has earned our thanks.
Enjoy your retirement, Ann Mary. We'll see you around.