HAMILTON - Ravalli County Treasurer Mary Hudson-Smith resigned Tuesday, six weeks after taking the oath of office.

"Given the external negativity in Ravalli County, I feel that I must tender my resignation," Hudson-Smith wrote in her letter to the county commissioners. "I have given my best to Ravalli County over the past 16 years and the county obviously needs, and deserves, better than I can give to the treasurer's office at this time."

That was the extent of the letter, which commission chairman J.R. Iman read at a meeting originally scheduled as an update from the treasurer on recent questions about her job performance.

After Iman finished reading the letter, a group of about 30 people gathered in the commissioners' meeting room broke into applause.

Hudson-Smith did not return a message from the Ravalli Republic to further comment on her resignation.

"This is an extremely unfortunate event," Iman said, "because this person was duly elected."

"It's with regret that we accept this resignation," Iman continued.

The commissioners will hold their first public meeting for transition planning on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher commended Hudson-Smith for taking what he said was the appropriate action. Kanenwisher said he appreciates the conscientious decision Hudson-Smith made and thanked her for her resignation.

"I think exactly the right thing has happened in this situation," Kanenwisher said.

Commissioner Suzy Foss agreed, saying she has admiration for the tough decision Hudson-Smith made.

"Our first loyalty is to our citizens and I think this was displayed in this decision," Foss said.

Hudson-Smith, who was a tax and motor vehicle clerk in the treasurer's office for 16 years, defeated incumbent treasurer JoAnne Johnson in last November's general election. A Republican, Hudson-Smith was part of a GOP sweep of the county's top offices.

In her first month in office, though, she quickly fell behind, failing to reconcile county accounts for December and sending out disbursements to county and state agencies late. County investments also were not being actively managed.

The commissioners expressed their concern with the situation, and formed an oversight committee to have daily contact with Hudson-Smith, as well as weekly updates with the full board.

Then came a recall effort, launched late last week by a former employee of the treasurer's office. Those critics complained both about Hudson-Smith's job performance and the fact that she originally filed for office as a Democrat - then switched to the Republican ticket.

***

With her resignation, Hudson-Smith designated chief deputy treasurer Marie Keeton as the contact person between the county commissioners and the finance office, said human resources director Robert Jenni.

Jenni said Hudson-Smith will still be available between now and the end of the month, but said he's not sure how active she will be in the office.

"We have a full staff. They know what's going on. And we have a chief deputy in place who can help fulfill those duties until the end of the month," Jenni said.

It is now up to the commissioners to appoint a treasurer, who will fill the vacancy until the next general election in 2012, said Deputy County Attorney Karen Mahar.

"The board would then schedule on the agenda a public meeting to discuss the process you're going to follow for appointment, so the public has an opportunity to come and comment," Mahar said.

That person, if they want to continue in office, would have to declare their candidacy for the primary election in 2012 and eventually succeed in the general election to fill the unexpired term.

Mahar noted that in state law there is no appointment procedure the commissioners have to follow. However, Mahar said generally counties advertise for the position and interview finalists from a list of qualified candidates.

Mahar said Hudson-Smith's resignation is effective 72 hours after Tuesday's submittal - after a "cooling off" period, allowing her to withdraw the resignation within that time frame. If she does not withdraw her resignation, Hudson-Smith cannot change her mind later, Mahar said.

Mahar advised the commissioners to take their time in finding a highly qualified applicant for the position.

"I don't see a big exposure as long as you've got your finance department, your personnel department seeing everything is getting done that we can do down in the treasurer's office," Mahar said.

County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg said this is the first time a county official has resigned from office in the 12 years she has worked for Ravalli County.

Reporter Whitney Bermes can be reached at 363-3300 or at whitney.bermes@ravallirepublic.com.

 

(14) comments

Just My Opinion

Thank you to MHS for her courage in stepping down. She has just walked away from a good paying elected position and that effort has saved the taxpayers tons of money that would have surely been spent in a recall effort. I truly appreciate her tough decision and hope that in response, the county would offer her the old job she had if she wants it back. This was the best decision for the citizens of the county, but certainly not for her personally. That lack of selfishness at this point has given me a new respect for her.

Blah

and you voted for her because she had an R after her name. if people would have voted the most experienced and qualified person in the last election we wouldn't have wasted county time and money.

Downstream Observer

I did not and will not vote for Tester and he has an "R" at the end of his name. This R discussion is getting old. Time to move on people.

Igotone

I beleive it is time to get the non partisin position on the County ticket

icemoth

LOL! J.M.O. & DS.O. = I.D.I.O.T.S.!!!

Blah

Why is it getting old? it's exactly the problem in this valley. Most people in this valley vote based on the letter R or D. They are lazy and can't think outside the box. Their lazyness is what brought about this debacle.

henley

So the Repug commissioners get to pick the new Repug Treasurer. I wonder if Iman, or Foss have a spouse, child, cousin, aunt, uncle, or best friend who might be looking for a job and can count to ten. Ten to one the new Treasurer will be a conservative Repug picked by the conservative Repugs in office, cause they can't see the forest for the trees.

MT

Voting merely on party affiliation is the only thing most Ravalli county residents are capable of. Instead of looking at each candidate and voting for a person based on their true positions on REAL issues, they just vote Republican. I would like to see the party affiliation removed from all advertising and on the ballot. THEN maybe the best qualified person would really win. It sure would make it hard for a lot of voters to "decide".

Blah

getting old? this is exactly the problem with the lazy voters in this valley. They are so mindless that they won't research candidates and will vote strickly R or D. They read their chain e-mails, believe them, circulate them to their friends....hook, line, and sinker. There was a perfectly good person who was the county treasurer. The ONLY reason she was voted out was because she had a D after her name. Congratulations to the mindless voters, you're ignorance has cost the county time and money dealing with this mess.

Olbitterrooter

WHAT????? Really are you an idiot? Tester is a Democrat. You speak for all the other idiots who don't pay attention. Lets move on and get his past us and learn from it. Get over the "R" and "D" You are beating a dead horse.

Mttori

Thank you Ms. Hudson-Smith for an action that must have come after very difficult consideration

Downstream Observer

Just for the record, noting what seems to be some underlying anger and tension in these blogs, I was trying to add levity to the site by making a pun: T-e-s-t-e-r does indeed end with an r, therefore, an "R" at the end of his name. Unfortunately, the intensity of some people's emotions obscured the humor...

Lee Enfield

Downstream Observer:
That actually was pretty funny. I did - and will again - vote for Jon Tester who I consider to be a fine man, an upstanding Montanan and a pretty good legislator, although his name does end with that "R" you mentioned.

I will never vote for Denny Rehberg - whose first name begins with a "D" - which, in his case, stands for "drunk".

sallymander

Now all that is left is for three unqualified newly elected commissioners to resign. One of them has an S behind their name.

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