By David Peck
Two-time candidate for Big Horn County commissioner Nick Lewis this week announced a third bid for the county commission, this time as a write-in.
Lewis finished fifth in a 12-person field for the Republican nomination for commissioner in the Aug. 21 primary election and received 467 votes. Incumbent Felix Carrizales of Burlington topped the ticket with 1,204 votes and will be joined on the general election ballot by Dave Neves of Otto, who garnered 965 votes. Keith Grant of Lovell received 794 votes in the primary, Linda Harp of Basin 505.
Unless Lewis prevails, north Big Horn County would not have a representative on the commission for the first time in recent memory. Deb Craft of Basin is the third commissioner, elected in 2016.
Lewis, the North Big Horn Hospital Facilities Coordinator, said he understands that running a write-in campaign is a difficult proposition, but he is ready for the challenge.
“The fight kind of intrigues me,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s been done before, but with the field dwindled down, we have a clear choice. With a field of 12 there was no clear-cut choice.
“This gives people a third option.”
Lewis said it’s important for all of the county to have a voice, noting, “There’s a group of people living in this area who will not be represented as well as in the past, because nobody is attuned to the issues in the north.”
As one minor example, he said he would like to see the landfill have longer hours on Saturdays, when working people have time to clean their yard and haul material to the landfill.
“How is the working stiff supposed to clean up their yard, the guy working 8 to 5?” he asked. “With all of the hail damage, there’s no place to empty a trailer on weekends.”
He also expressed support for the Big Horn Canyon Parkway, saying the long-proposed paved highway from Barry’s Landing to Ft. Smith is “one of the things our area needs.”
“What has been done in the past hasn’t worked,” Lewis said. “We need a different approach.”
Lewis said he would take the time to learn about federal issues and attend the many meetings that involve the county, much like Grant has done over the years.
“We have to go and see what’s being said and proposed,” he said. “It’s like the Medicine Wheel. If there had been no representation from the county, we would have a huge buffer zone up there. I will make the time to do that.”
When asked about issues of importance on the south end of the county, Lewis said he is a strong advocate for the reopening of the Antelope Butte area as a four-season recreational destination.
“Something like that would really help our whole county,” he said.
And while he believes in the benefits of economic development, Lewis said, “We also have to be making sure that we, as a county, support the businesses and people who are already here and have been here for a long time.” Among the ones he cited were those based in agriculture, as well as the bentonite and sugar plants.
Lewis said Big Horn County citizens would benefit from his life experience, noting that he has worked in the construction and law enforcement fields for many years and has worked in marketing, budgeting and grant writing. He said he has an ability to build consensus.
“I kind of like a challenge,” he said. “I’m doing a write-in because people want a third choice.”
He said he will run much harder than he did before the primary, noting that he announced his commission bid in early April but three more candidates – Grant, Dalton Banks and Nash Jolley – joined the race from the north end.
“When Keith jumped in, I saw the handwriting on the wall,” Lewis said. “With 12 people (in the race) it was an obvious thing. People vote for the name. I never had one person ask me what I felt about things, and the forums are attended by the same 10 people. It was a lost cause. Now people will have three choices.”