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Joint county committee selects HD 80 replacement

Zack Wirth
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 20:34:12-05

HELENA — The Montana House of Representatives has been one legislator short since the 68th Session kicked off on Monday. But that will soon change now that Zack Wirth has been named to fill the open House District 80 seat.

HD 80 encompasses Powell County and rural parts of southern Lewis and Clark County. The seat had been held by Becky Beard, R-Elliston, until December when she was appointed by the same group of commissioners to fill the open seat in Senate District 40.

Last month, a joint panel of Republicans from Powell and Lewis and Clark counties selected Nathan Nachtsheim, Hailey Oestreicher and Wirth as candidates for the open HD 80 seat. Wirth, a fifth-generation rancher, runs the Rocking Z Guest Ranch south of Wolf Creek with his family.

HD 80 Candidates

After two hours of interviews on Tuesday, county commissioners from Powell and Lewis and Clark counties picked Wirth to fill the open seat.

Last month, a joint panel of Republicans from Powell and Lewis and Clark counties selected Nathan Nachtsheim, Hailey Oestreicher and Zachary Wirth as candidates for the open HD 80 seat.

While the joint committee ultimately picked Wirth based on experience, the commissioners and Wirth had nothing but glowing comments for all the candidates noting they would all do a good job in the position.

“Hailey Oestreicher, Nathan, all good people and all would bring the right things to the legislature,” said Wirth. “I hope to bring a calming voice to all the different factions so we can get through this session. And it’s been in my best interest to get this session done early.“

Wirth received three votes from the Lewis and Clark County commissioners and Oestreicher received three votes from the Powell County commissioners. The votes were weighted based on the number of votes cast by county in the last election for HD 80. In the last election, there were 3,896 votes cast in Lewis and Clark and there was 806 cast in Powell. That means the Lewis and Clark commissioners had roughly 83% of the total vote while the Powell County commissioners accounted for around 17%.

The commissioners said they hoped to inform the Secretary of State’s Office by the end of the day Tuesday or early Wednesday so Wirth could be sworn in as soon as possible.

Wirth says, much like Beard, he wanted to have a good line of open communication with his new constituents and invites HD 80 voters to reach out to him. Shortly after being notified by the Secretary of State, the State of Montana will create a legislative e-mail and contact information page for Wirth.