Three candidates — incumbent Dutton Mayor Susan Fleshman, Bruce Wayne Garrett and Allen “Craig” Chevalier — are vying for the four-year Dutton mayor’s position.
The 2021 municipal election will be held by mail-in ballots with the results tabulated on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2. According to the Teton County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, ballots will be mailed to registered voters in Dutton from Oct. 13-18. The Dutton mayoral race is the only contested municipal race in the county. Choteau and Fairfield will not hold elections; their unopposed candidates were elected by acclamation to the new terms that will start in January.
Fleshman and Garrett filed during the regular filing period and Chevalier as a write-in candidate for the nonpartisan race.
The incumbent, Fleshman, has lived in Dutton since 1981. She is a graduate of the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and Santa Fe Community College with an associate’s degree in radiology. She has worked as a radiologic technologist, was a Federal Crop Insurance adjustor and secretary at the bank. She served on the council befire being elected as mayor. Fleshman said her careers and her time spent both on the council and as mayor provided good experience in doing the job of mayor.
Garrett, 58, a retired BNSF railway worker, has lived in Dutton for three and a half years. He is a Belt Valley High School graduate and attended two years of college. He joined the Army six days after high school graduation. Garrett, who is disabled, retired from BNSF Railway in 2019.
Garrett said he has never served in public office before, but having been an Army combat nurse, he had to deal with the public many times. “I have had to deal with moving my unit through cities and towns during training,” he said. “I have had to work with city managers and city employees to feed, bed, fuel and treat my injured. Also during my time with the railroad, I have had to do pretty much the same: deal with city officials of big cities in Texas such as Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston to close roads and major highways to service my railroad tracks.”
Chevalier, 61, is a retired truck mechanic. He was raised on a farm five miles from Dutton. He moved away from Dutton in 1988 to Nebraska, where he worked as a mechanic at a Freightliner dealership. Later he owned his own semi-truck repair shop for 15 years and worked for another business and dealt with people daily. He returned to Dutton in 2018 after injuring his back twice, once at work and once in a fall from a roof.
The three candidates for mayor were asked a handful of questions to assist voters in selecting a mayor. The following are the questions and the candidates’ answers.
•Why are you running for mayor?
Fleshman: To continue working as mayor for the town of Dutton.
Garrett: I am running for the office of mayor to see if I can get small-town pride back in rural Montana. Small towns in Montana are fading away. I was raised in small town Montana, Belt. People were proud to live there. Everyone knew each other, everyone helped each other. We took pride in our town, our school and what we had to offer. We welcomed new people and families. We celebrated as a town. That’s what I would like to help Dutton become.
Chevalier: To improve Dutton to be a better place to live and to get back to basics.
•What are some of your leadership skills?
Garrett: Leadership skills are that I have served as a squad leader and platoon sergeant and a ward master in a medical center in the army. Worked my way from a track laborer to District Roadmaster for BNSF. I work hard and take pride in what I do and I speak my mind.
Chevalier: My leadership comes from running my own business.
Fleshman: I am used to directing staff, educating people, and not afraid to speak in public. My experience pertaining to the job.
What are your communication skills?
Chevalier: I believe I’m good at talking to people.
Fleshman: I am a good listener as well as understanding the situation at hand. I am able to diffuse volatile situations and I try to be kind to all.
Garrett: I want the town of Dutton to be a place where a family who wants to raise their family in rural Montana, would choose us, to know that they would be happy and stay. I want the people of Dutton to have their voice in what goes on in their town. I am not the person who wants to get elected by saying, “I will help the town get better water,” which it really needs. Or make stupid promises that cannot be made real.
What are your priorities for the Town of Dutton?
Fleshman: To keep Dutton a viable town, to increase growth, to keep Dutton a nice place to live, more housing, keeping infrastructure improved.
Garrett: This is the Town of Dutton. It’s up to everyone that lives and sleeps here to decide what happens to this town, its growth, its future. All 200 and so, young and old. Not just a mayor and a few councilmen. If elected as mayor, I just want to be the voice of this town. Like it was for me working my careers, having an open-door policy: come in sit and have a cup of coffee and tell me what you want, what you need what will make you and your family happy and want to stay. All I can promise is that I will make me available 24-7 to get in touch with you for your concerns and problems. As I have done with others I have worked with, I will research — dig and scratch and seek and find the resources to help find the solutions to help the people of this town and the town itself. And I will keep you and the town totally updated weekly and monthly on what’s going on and what we are spending to help get things done. Dutton is your town, it needs to be done as a town effort. Let’s bring back the town picnics, Sunday pancake breakfasts. Let’s make Dutton grow, not big or fast, just growth and happiness.
Chevalier: I want to get the people of Dutton more involved in decisions for their town.
If elected would you be a hands-on mayor, helping the town employees as needed on projects?
Garrett: If elected, I will be there for the town of Dutton and as for being hands on, well I am disabled so I cannot be in the trenches with the employees like I would like to be. But I will be with them making sure they have the tools and whatever they need to get the work done and make this town better to the best of my abilities.
Chevalier: Yes, I would be a hands-on mayor and help as needed.
Fleshman: As mayor I am a hands-on leader already. We are a team effort. I am involved in any project we undertake. I always take the time to talk with the staff.
•What makes you the best candidate for this office?
Chevalier: Honesty and integrity make me the best candidate for mayor of Dutton.
Fleshman: My experience, my ability to make hard decisions and my desire to keep working for the town of Dutton.
Garrett: To be honest, nothing makes me the best candidate. In all my working career, I totally disliked city government. A small group of people meeting once a month for an hour trying to decide what is best for the other few hundred living in the town. Totally worse for bigger cities. Living in Dutton almost four years has been nice and relaxing. Dutton Days this year was fun and I enjoyed swimming at the town pool with my great grandson. The pool was the one thing this town did get together on and took pride in, and everyone enjoyed. We have a nice web page for the town of Dutton, but it’s never really updated or worked on. The last city council notes I saw on it were from 2017. So how can people know what’s going here or what we have to offer?