State Senator Terry Gauthier said he will file a letter of resignation with the Montana Secretary of State’s office Monday to go on a 20-country motorcycle tour that begins in March and will be unavailable for much of the legislature.
The Helena Republican said the tour will last around 2 1/2 months.
“It’s a trip I just couldn’t pass up,” he said on Saturday.
Gauthier, 65, said finding a successor is a matter for Republican central committees in Lewis and Clark and Powell counties because Senate District 40 includes both areas. But he said he hopes they pick Republican Matt Olson, a Helena businessman who was defeated by Democrat Mary Ann Dunwell in his run for the Senate District 42 seat on Nov. 8.
He called Olson “the ideal candidate,” citing his long association with the community and his hard work campaigning. During his campaign, Olson revealed that he was the former owner of a Dairy Queen, which he owned for 28 years.
Darin Gaub, chairman of the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee, said Saturday that the “clock starts” as soon as they are notified by the Secretary of State and the state’s Republicans.
He said she’s reviewing the Montana State Code and state GOP rules “to make sure we’re not assuming anything.”
Gaub said any decision will affect Powell and Lewis and Clark counties.
“We have a few people in mind and will share those names if we get approval from them to go through the process,” he said. “Regardless, we will ensure that we recommend candidates who continue to represent the people of Senate District 40 with the same passion Senator Gauthier did.”
Gauthier, who served in the Marines for 20 years, will be with GlobeRiders on the motorcycle tour, led by Seattle-based Helge Pedersen.
Countries on the itinerary include Albania, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He said he had to ship his motorcycle from British Columbia in January.
Gauthier, who once owned the McDonald’s franchises in Helena, has served in the state legislature since 2017. He won re-election in 2021 and his term ends on January 6, 2025, according to Ballotpedia.
In the 2021 session, he was a member of the Committee on Business, Labor and Economic Affairs and the Energy and Telecom Committee and Chair of the Local Government Committee.
During the 2021 session, Gauthier advocated exploring the possibility of small nuclear reactors in Montana.
Gauthier was able to push through Senate Joint Resolution 3 in the 2021 legislative session, which states that the closure of coal-fired power plants will have a negative impact on the community of Colstrip and coal-fired boilers could be replaced with a small nuclear reactor that would be clean and well-paid provide jobs.
He said it could then use existing infrastructure to produce and distribute clean, affordable electricity safely and without carbon emissions. A study by an interim committee was prepared and sent to the legislature.
Gauthier said his biggest regret in leaving was his inability to continue advancing small nuclear modules in Montana.
Gauthier said he felt it was time to go and said he had a life of public service by being in the Marines and serving as a state senator. He cited his work raising funding and legal support for a new historical society museum and his work funding hiking trails.
“I think I’ve achieved a lot,” he said. “I’ll be sad, but I won’t miss it a whole lot. I want my life back.”
Associate Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.