Myhre bids farewell after 25 years of service to Lewistown

Retiring City Manager Kevin Myhre (right) enjoys a laugh with Ted Murray at a retirement open house held for Myhre on Thursday afternoon. Thursday was Myhre’s last day as city manager.
Photo by Deb Hill

By: 
Deb Hill
News-Argus Managing Editor

 

Thursday at 5 p.m. officially marked the end of Kevin Myhre’s 14-year tenure as Lewistown’s city manager. Earlier that day, Myhre took some time to reflect on his decades of service to the community.

“I came to the job from the police department,” he recalled. “While criminal work is a little different than civil, it wasn’t completely new to me. I was used to working with budgets and different revenue sources, and I’d worked with a couple of city managers by that point. I was familiar with what the city departments were doing, so I was prepared for a lot of it.”

Myhre said Lewistown switched to the city manager form of government right about the time he became the city’s chief of police, and he learned a lot from working with the managers he served under.

“It was helpful to have role models and to see how they handled the issues,” he said.

In 2002 Myhre became the city manager, initially serving in an interim capacity, something he said he told himself to ignore.

“Even as the interim city manager, I tried to look long term, to figure out what was best for the city and what needed to be done, rather than going whichever way the wind blew,” he said, an outlook he suggests might serve the next manager well.

“By then I had realized how short a time the average manager is in office,” he said. “Most don’t make it past two to three years as manager. I figured if the city commission didn’t want me, I didn’t want to be in the position, and I was going to make the decisions I thought were right.”

Myhre pointed to a paper taped to the side of his file cabinet on which is printed a quote from John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

“My advice to the next city manager is to look long term,” he said. “Lewistown is not a flash in the pan. It’s been here a hundred years and will be here hundreds more. See how best to prepare for the future, and do that, rather than using band-aid solutions to problems.”

An example, Myhre said, was his work to upgrade the city’s water and sewer systems.

“When I came on board, the treatment plant needed to be upgraded. Sewer rates had not been raised in 10 years. We needed to double the rates just to break even. There was a vocal opposition to the idea of improvements, due to the cost. But we did it, including upgrading sewer capacity on the hospital hill, which allowed us years later to have Tractor Supply build up there.”

Myhre is also proud of his support of the trail system. While crediting many others for the results, he points to five years of negotiations with Burlington Northern as his contribution.

“It cost the city nothing, as we had grants to do the acquisition, but some people were still against it,” he said. “I just thought it would be a wonderful resource for the community and a draw for people visiting.”

Myhre said he intends to continue serving on the trails committee, and he also hopes to continue on the Community Service Commission, to which he was appointed by the governor.

Still there are projects Myhre started that will need to be finished by future city managers.

“The community needs to keep working on water system improvements,” he said. “We need enhanced maintenance on that system so DEQ doesn’t make us chlorinate year round. We need to look at the water lines into town – the newest is 20 years old. We need to keep working – it’s never done.”

Myhre said he hopes the city continues to seek ways to become a tourist destination, which could include, he said, creation of a new state park or perhaps even a federal park somewhere in the area.

Lewistown, he said, has a positive future.

“The town is well positioned and is a strong community. The vast majority of the citizens are good people. Sometimes a few extremely negative people try to stop the good things that are going on but we can’t let them dictate the future.”

Lewistown’s former city manager planned to hit the road Friday for a well-earned vacation, including riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, before taking up the reins in his new position at Century Companies, Inc.

“I’ll miss my friends on the city staff, and a lot of people I’ve worked with as manager. I’ll miss the social aspect of the job, but I probably won’t miss the complainers,” he quipped.

 

 

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