Former Gov. Judy Martz was a fighter to the end.
Martz died Monday after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer, but during her career as a politician she never shied away from a fight either. That probably came in part from her life growing up in the Democratic stronghold of Butte with a Republican mindset. It also probably came from growing up a woman in what was then more of a man’s world — and knowing that she was good enough, smart enough and strong enough to get any job done without being part of the good-old-boys network.
She was an Olympic speedskater as a young woman, and then had a successful career as a business owner before joining politics later in life, serving first as lieutenant governor to popular Marc Racicot, and then taking the reins as the state’s first female governor in 2001 just as the country and state were about to enter the tough economic times that followed the 9/11 attacks. There were troubles almost from the start, partly because she just wasn’t a very good politician. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and sometimes that got her into trouble, but now in retrospect we can only respect her down-home values and the kindness and honesty that sometimes got her in trouble.
When she announced that she would not seek a second term, the Inter Lake took note of some of her weaknesses, but then said, “Look back realistically and Martz may even be a better governor than Racicot was in many ways, but you would never know that based on the popularity polls. Racicot could do no wrong as far as most people were concerned, and Martz can do no right.”
One thing she did right for Northwest Montana was using her one-time-only “silver bullet” authority that allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to bypass the standard (and slow) process for obtaining a Superfund priority listing for the asbestos contamination in Libby. For that, she has our eternal gratitude.