AbilityNews.net

An Interview with Ron Tussing, Mayor of Billings, Montana

on February 24, 2010

On March 17th, 2008 Vern Anderson, owner of AbilityNews had an interview with Ron Tussing, mayor of Billings, Montana. The staff of AbilityNews would like to thank Mr. Tussing and found him to be very approachable, honest and generous with his time.
What are some things that you have learned about being mayor that you did not expect when you took office?
Mayor Tussing responded by sharing that he was surprised about the time commitment that it took to be Mayor. “I thought that perhaps mayor Tooley was exaggerating when he told me, but he wasn’t.” Mayor Tussing went on to explain that being the mayor of Billings “is almost a full-time job” and just last week, he had 16 meetings. Mayor Tussing also shared that he was somewhat surprised about the number of lawsuits that have been brought against the city of Billings.
If you could go back and do something differently as mayor, what would that be if anything?
“I think that I would been more involved in the input of the process of monitoring lawsuits,” He went on to explain that the mayor position does “not have any real power.” But that he has been effective in appointing various committees “the way I get things done is through the citizens” he explained. Mr. Tussing also spoke about his involvement in the Homelessness Committee, and the good work community members are doing in this area.
What do you like about being Mayor?
“I have enjoyed working with the citizens of Billings mostly.” Mayor Tussing explained that he enjoyed “helping people and trying to solve problems.” It was during this part of the interview when mayor Tussing shared one of his guiding principles that “If you are going to do something – its important to do it right.” He also shared that he felt that it was important as mayor to “welcome folks to the business community” and that he enjoyed participating in event like the recent Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, and also in events like “ribbon cuttings” for new businesses. He felt that public displays of support by the mayor and other leaders were important in developing a community that was strong.
Are there some things about your police job that you have missed?
The change in job positions “was easier than I thought it would be.” Mr. Tussing explained that he did not miss his old job as much as one would think, as both jobs as police Chief and as mayor are “administrative in nature,” and both jobs at their core are about public service.
What would you tell the voter with a disability about why it is important to vote?
“If you want your voice to be heard” a person needs to vote so they “can have an impact.” It is important for the voter “learn about what the important issues are “ and to find out if those running for office will listen to what you have to say. Mayor Tussing also explained that it is important for elected officials to listen to what the disability community has to say, even if there might not be the finical resources to do certain things. The mayor stated that he had been involved in the past and enjoyed his time working with different community activities that involved people with disabilities including PLUK, and the Special Olympics.
On a related issue mayor Tussing felt that it would be important for the disability community to spotlight some if the issues around accessibility for people with disabilities, and has considered ways to get out the information to the general public. He spoke with Vern about this important issue, and offered several ideas and his support.
Recently you have announced that you were running for a seat on the state Public Service Commission. What are some reasons you have decided to make this change?
Mr. Tussing explained that there were several reasons he felt it was time to move on to something different, although he has enjoyed his service as mayor very much. He shared that he was interested in environmental issues, and felt that it is important to start thinking “long-term” about some of the challenges we face. Mr. Tussing stated “If we always do what we have always done we will always get the same result” and that he one can balance environmental issues and the economy and consider alternative energy sources that are out there. Another honest consideration in running for a different office is that the position of mayor pays about $800.00 per month, and financially it would be “hard to afford running for mayor again.”


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