A Democratic state lawmaker is hoping to flip a Gallatin County Commission seat in the 2020.
Zach Brown, who represents southwest Bozeman in the state House, has announced his candidacy for the seat held by Commissioner Don Seifert, a Republican who is not seeking reelection and is instead running for House District 67, which covers part of Belgrade.
“I think I can represent the variety of views in the county,” Brown said. “I feel I can be a bridge-builder between rural and urban, which I think has been missing from the county. Over the last several years, the division between these two has grown and I hope my service could repair that.”
Brown, 29, said he will be an advocate for agriculture, open space, local food, private land stewardship, fiscal responsibility, urban-rural cooperation and sustainable growth.
“A negative outcome for the county would be if all open space were developed and urbanized because open space and agricultural lands are part of our heritage and what makes this place special,” he said.
As part of the county’s growth planning efforts, he would like to see consideration given to zoning policies and for development to focus on the rapidly growing triangle area between Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners.
During his three terms in the Legislature, Brown worked on criminal justice issues and hopes to continue that work at the county level.
He plans to explore new ways to replace the aging and cramped Law and Justice Center, which voters have twice rejected. He said he would lobby for another district court judge, which county commissioners have long told state lawmakers they need but have been
unsuccessful in securing. He will support programs including drug treatment courts, pretrial diversion and addiction treatment, which he sees as less expensive and more effective than incarceration.
He would also like the county to support the infrastructure needs of smaller, fast-growing towns like Big Sky and West Yellowstone.
Brown grew up in Bozeman and attended the University of Montana. After graduating in 2013, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as a Truman-Albright Fellow, worked on trade and immigration policy and was an associate for former Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.
He then returned to Montana and became a state lawmaker while also working as a program manager for One Montana, a Bozeman nonprofit focused on rural-urban connections. Brown now works as a consultant, serves as a high school basketball official and mentors an elementary school student through a local nonprofit.
Gallatin County has three commissioners who serve staggered six-year terms and are paid $76,391 annually. Commissioners Joe Skinner, a Republican, and Scott MacFarlane, a Democrat, are not up for reelection in 2020.
Brown’s fiancee, Alice Buckley, 27, has announced her candidacy for his state House seat.