It’s not easy being a senator in a state that covers more than 147,000 square miles. But it does come with some rewards.
As advertised on his much-lauded online schedule, Jon Tester started last week with Memorial Day celebrations in Great Falls and Polson on Monday before traveling almost 600 miles to Glendive on Tuesday for a series of meetings and listening sessions. From there he went to Billings for a handful of meetings and an energy forum. He returned to his Big Sandy farm for a day of rest on Thursday, but was up before dawn on Friday to take part in a 9 a.m. tour of the decrepit Mike Horse Dam near Lincoln.
We caught up with Jon and Sharla Tester and their entourage several hours later in the air-conditioned comfort of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency boardroom where local business leaders and politicians shared their ideas for what they’d like to see in future federal energy legislation.
Spending most of the rest of the day with Tester, it became clear that the senator has gotten used to a pace far more harried than any long day on a tractor.
According to his website, Tester had six scheduled events for the day: the 9 a.m. tour at the Mike Horse Dam, the 11:30 a.m. energy forum at the MRA, a 1 p.m. briefing with Forest Service officials downtown, a 2:30 p.m. briefing with officials from the Northern Rockies Fire Coordination Center and the Montana Department of National Resources and Conservation near the airport, a 3:45 p.m. tour of the Smurfit-Stone plant west of Missoula, and First Friday festivities in downtown Missoula.
While the posted daily schedule was accurate, it hardly seems complete. It doesn’t account for lunch at Sean Kelly’s with Sharla and Missoula Mayor John Engen, or the rush to get a cooler of freshly butchered meat to their son Shon (who lives in Missoula), or the rushed speechwriting session between tours that left no time for Tester to stop off at the Big Sky Brewery for the beer sample he was hoping to taste as his car passed by on the highway.
But the job isn’t without its rewards.
As Tester and his sweaty staff rushed to their cars between meetings, a seemingly star-struck constituent nearly crashed into a delivery truck as he pedaled his bicycle across the street, hooting and cheering as if he were at a Griz game. “Yeah, man! Whoo! Can I get a high-five?”
Tester, still a bit fuzzy after long slideshow in a dark room full of long-winded bureaucrats, sprang to life and raised his substantial arm.
“Yeah!” said Tester, earnestly obliging the fan, and nearly knocking him off his bike in the process.