Group raising funds to honor Gov. Judy Martz’s Montana legacy

By 
Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Judy Martz served as Montana’s Governor from Jan. 1, 2001 to Jan. 3, 2005. Courtesy photo

Judy Martz served as Montana’s Governor from Jan. 1, 2001 to Jan. 3, 2005. Courtesy photo

Peggy Miller, a longtime political activist who lives in Laurel, is asking folks to, “Join the J Team,” to raise funds for a statue to honor Montana’s first (and only) woman head-of-state, Gov. Judy Martz.

“She really was a trailblazer,” said Miller, “and not only in politics, but she was a rodeo star and an Olympian.”

Long before Martz ever thought of joining the political arena, she was a talented athlete in her own right. In 1962 she was named Miss Rodeo Montana. She further challenged herself as a speed skater, competing in the 1964 Olympics. Later, she and her husband, Harry, owned a refuse disposal service in Butte and ran a ranch. The couple had two children, Justin and Stacey Jo.

Martz made history in 1996 when she became the first female Lieutenant Governor of Montana, elected with Gov. Marc Racicot. She served in that role from 1997 to 2001. In 2000, she was elected the 22nd Governor of the state and she served from Jan. 1, 2001 to Jan. 3, 2005. During her first legislative session, Montana’s education budget saw its largest increase ever. She also oversaw a number of tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

In the years following, Martz continued to serve by sitting on boards for Big Sky State Games, Maternal Life International, the University of Montana Western and TASER International. She died of cancer Oct. 30, 2017 at 74 years old.

Miller and a group of about 10 women across the state are leading the charge to have the former governor and lieutenant governor honored at the Capitol building in Helena.

“The statue has already been authorized by the legislature and it was signed by Gov. Bullock, but that authorization goes away if the statue isn’t in place by October 1, 2024,” Miller said. “What we hope to do is find others to join the ‘J’ Team and donate $20 in 2020.”

Miller noted that Judy Martz really cared about Montana communities, including Laurel.

“She was here to support us several times,” she said. “She came for the groundbreaking at Lion’s Family Park and she was someone we knew we could count on.”

According to the information provided by Miller, all donations will go towards the statue, “to stand as a permanent reminder that in Montana we look to and are inspired by the women who make a difference in our communities.”

The group needs to raise about $95,000 still to meet their goal of $162,500. The statue has to be completely privately funded under the Montana Capitol rules. Decisions regarding the artist, location and style of the statue is the responsibility of the Capitol Complex Advisory Committee and the General Services Division of the administration.

To make a donation visit www.GovMartzStatue.org Checks should be made to the Montana History Center with “Martz Statue Fund” written in the memo line. Mail checks to: Montana History Fund, Box 1585, Helena, MT 59624. Like the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GovMartzMemorial

Checks should be made payable to the:  Montana History Center-Martz Statue and mailed to PO Box 1585, Helena MT 59624 or online at www.govmartzstatue.org

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