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Biography Brian Schweitzer

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Brian Schweitzer Brian Schweitzer
Brian Schweitzer
The 23rd Governor of Montana, having served from January 5, 2005 to January 7, 2013.


Brian Schweitzer Biography

ENG:  Brian David Schweitzer (born September 4, 1955) was the 23rd Governor of Montana, having served from January 5, 2005 to January 7, 2013. Schweitzer formerly served as chair of the Western Governors Association as well as the Democratic Governors Association. He also served as President of the Council of State Governments.


Early life and Education

Schweitzer was born in Havre, Montana, the fourth of six children of Kathleen (née McKernan) and Adam Schweitzer. His paternal grandparents were ethnic Germans from present-day Russia and Ukraine and his maternal grandparents were Irish. Following his high school years at The Abbey School, Holy Cross Abbey, Canon City, Colorado in 1973, Schweitzer earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international agronomy from Colorado State University in 1978 and a Master of Science in soil science from Montana State University, Bozeman in 1980.

Upon finishing school, Schweitzer worked as an irrigation developer on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. He spent several years working in Libya and Saudi Arabia, and speaks Arabic. He returned to Montana in 1986 to launch a ranching and irrigation business in Whitefish.

Bill Clinton appointed Schweitzer to the United States Department of Agriculture as a member of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency committee, where he worked for seven years. While working for the USDA, he was appointed to the Montana Rural Development Board (1996) and the National Drought Task Force (1999).


US Senate Election

In 2000, Schweitzer ran for U.S. Senate against the Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. Burns faced a surprisingly difficult reelection campaign. In February 1999, he announced that he would break his 1988 promise to only hold office for two terms, claiming "Circumstances have changed, and I have rethought my position." Later that same month, while giving a speech about U.S. dependence on foreign oil to the Montana Equipment Dealers Association, Burns referred to Arabs as "ragheads". Burns soon apologized, saying he "became too emotionally involved" during the speech.

While Burns attempted to link Schweitzer with presidential candidate Al Gore, whom Schweitzer never met, Schweitzer "effectively portrayed himself as nonpolitical". Schweitzer primarily challenged Burns on the issue of prescription drugs, organizing busloads of senior citizens to take trips to Canada and Mexico for cheaper medicine. Burns charged that Schweitzer favored "Canadian-style government controls" and claimed that senior citizens went to doctors to have "somebody to visit with. There's nothing wrong with them." Burns also faced trouble regarding deaths from asbestos in Libby, Montana. While he initially supported a bill to limit compensation in such cases, he withdrew his support for the bill, under public criticism, and added $11.5 million for the town to an appropriations bill.

Burns spent twice as much money as Schweitzer on the election and only defeated him by a slim margin, 51-47 percent, while the state voted 58% to 33% for the Republican presidential nominee, George W. Bush.



When incumbent Governor Judy Martz announced she would not run for re-election in 2004, Schweitzer announced his candidacy. His running mate was John Bohlinger, a Republican state senator. He won the general election by a margin of 50 to 46 percent over Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown. Both while campaigning and as governor, Schweitzer became known for a folksy public persona. The governor's dog, a Border Collie named Jag, regularly accompanied him on work days at the Capitol, as well as some other official occasions.

As Governor, Schweitzer is an active member of the Democratic Governors Association. Prior to becoming Chair, he served as the organization's Vice Chair, Finance Chair, and Recruitment Chair. Montana's electrical generation capacity has increased more during his term as Governor than the previous 16 years combined.

On May 3, 2006, Schweitzer granted posthumous pardons to 78 persons convicted of sedition during World War I for making comments that were critical of the war. These were the first posthumous pardons in Montana history, but the convictions had become notorious in recent years because Montana's sedition law had been one of the broadest and harshest of its time: one man went to prison for calling food rationing a joke, while others were targeted because they refused to physically kiss a U.S. flag or to buy Liberty Bonds. At a public ceremony attended by family members of the pardon recipients, Schweitzer said, "[i]n times when our country is pushed to our limits, those are the times when it is most important to remember individual rights."

Schweitzer was to co-lead an energy policy forum at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. on February 22, 2009, along with Republican Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who announced just days before the event that she would not attend, leaving Schweitzer to lead the discussion alone. He caused a minor stir when he ribbed his colleague over the cancellation, joking in a reference to the high-profile purchase of a $150,000 wardrobe for Palin by the Republican Party during the 2008 campaign.

Following General Motors' announced decision to terminate its contract with Columbus-based Stillwater Mining Company to procure palladium, platinum, and rhodium for use in automobiles to reduce air pollution, Schweitzer broke Democratic party ranks to protest a perceived bias against Montana on the part of the Barack Obama administration. He asked the administration to force GM, which is receiving an infusion of around $50 billion as part of the automotive corporation federal recovery plan, to honor its contract in a manner consistent with the "buy American" provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. According to Schweitzer and the mining company, the Montana mines operated by Stillwater are the only source of palladium and platinum outside South Africa and Russia. "When the American people find out that we have spent tens of billions of dollars to bail out General Motors and then they turn around and void a contract with Stillwater Mine, the only source of platinum, palladium and rhodium in the Western Hemisphere, and continues to buy that metal from the Russians and South Africans, they will be outraged", Schweitzer asserted.

In March 2005, Schweitzer suggested that Montana's National Guard troops be recalled from service in Iraq to assist firefighting during Montana's wildfire season. He has also gained national attention for his focus on converting Montana's vast coal reserves into fuel, which he has said is one way to wean America off of foreign oil. Schweitzer was interviewed by 60 Minutes in late 2006 or early 2007 as well as by Charlie Rose (on March 7, 2007), regarding his work in this field. Governor Schweitzer has been a catalyst for alternative energy development in Montana. Montana had 1 MW of wind power online in January 2005 by the end of 2012 the state is expected to exceed 600 MW of wind power.

Schweitzer is opposed to gun control and is a vehement critic of the REAL ID legislation. In 2006 Governor Schweitzer announced a plan to give Montana homeowners a $400 tax rebate. House Bill 9. which provided the $400 rebate was signed into law by Governor Schweitzer on June 1, 2007.

Schweitzer signed into Law the Montana Firearms Freedom Act on April 15, 2009 which became effective October 1, 2009. The law exempts firearms made and kept in Montana from Federal firearms regulations. It applies mostly to non-military types of firearms, along with ammunition and accessories such as silencers, provided that these items are manufactured in the state, and do not leave the state. In 2011, Schweitzer announced his intention to provide single-payer health care in Montana, based on the Saskatchewan plan.

Schweitzer is known for his unsparing use of the veto, a power he has exercised 95 times in his eight years as governor. He vetoed 74 bills in the 2011 legislature; none of his vetoes were overridden. For instance, in April 2011, Schweitzer made news with his unconventional use of a branding iron to publicly veto several Republican-led bills. He denounced them as "frivolous, unconstitutional and just bad ideas" that were "in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the people of Montana." He has endorsed an expansion of wind, solar, and biofuel technologies as well as a plan to turn coal into diesel fuel. Schweitzer has pointed out that Montana has had the highest ending fund balances in the state’s history under his administration, with an average ending fund balance of $414 million. The average balance of the eighteen years prior was $54 million.

Governor supported and signed into law voluntary full-time kindergarten. Senate Bill 2, which passed during a special session of the legislature, created full-time kindergarten. Governor Schweitzer signed the bill May 17, 2007. Governor Schweitzer was instrumental in implementing, for the first time since the Constitutional Convention of 1972 called on the State to “recognize the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians”, Indian Education for All funding. Indian Education for All was funded in House Bill 2 and signed into law by Governor Schweitzer on May 6, 2005. As one of his first endeavors, Governor Schweitzer proposed and passed the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program. This scholarship has given opportunity to over 2700 students who will study at any of Montana’s 2-or 4-year public colleges and universities, including community and tribal colleges.

A report released in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education shows Montana increasing the number of college graduates by 3.2% from 2009 to 2010 – more than double any other state. The national average is half a percent. A recent report by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization that is focused on producing in-depth education journalism, said that Montana, “raised the percentage of its 25- to 64-year-olds who have finished college by more than 6 percent over the last three years, the biggest improvement in the nation, during a time when the rest of the country barely edged up on this measure by 1 percent. Fifteen states actually lost ground.”

Schweitzer's reputation led him to be mentioned by some political pundits in the liberal blogosphere as being among the top candidates for Vice President under Democratic nominee Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Schweitzer gave a speech on American energy independence at the 2008 Democratic National Convention that was widely acclaimed.

Schweitzer consistently held one of the highest approval ratings among governors in the nation, with polls regularly showing a rating of above 60 percent. Due to term limits in Montana, he could not run for reelection in 2012.


Yellow Ribbon Program

Following the suicide of Iraq war veteran Chris Dana in 2007, Governor Schweitzer started the Yellow Ribbon Program. Schweitzer testified in Washington D.C. saying, “the federal government does an excellent job at turning a civilian into a warrior, I think they have an equal responsibility in turning that warrior back into a civilian.” More than 13% of adult Montanans are veterans.

This program developed policies and procedures that each Montana Guardsmen would undergo to ensure that physical and mental health were documented before, during, and after deployment. Automatic enrollment into the Veterans Affairs system would also be required of guardsmen to ensure delivery of benefits entitled.

Following its success in Montana, the Yellow Ribbon Program was implemented nationally and is now a part of the National Defense Act.



Schweitzer married Nancy Hupp in 1981. The couple began a family after returning to Montana, and are the parents of three children: Ben, Khai, and Katrina.





January 23,2013

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