HELENA – March is Women’s History Month and in Montana, there have been some extraordinary women who have made history.
MTN News headed to Helena to learn about a woman who not only had a hand in shaping political history — but as of Susan Good Geise puts it – also had ringside seat to some of the most amazing things.
Sitting in her office in the Lewis and Clark City-County Building Good Geise is full of advice – as well as perspective. “Just being able to show up has caused me to reap enormous benefits.”
She’s now a county commissioner, but her political roots run deep and says she’s always been interested politics, “I didn’t think back [then] — that would have been like 1963 — that was an avenue that would be necessarily open to me,” Good Geise said.
“I came from a solidly middle-class family who were highly regarded but we didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t really have any contacts,” she recalled.
But that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. She took a trip to Helena and listened to a hearing during the legislature – and that day would change the course of her life.
“I was expecting great and glorious things to emanate from them and some of them were like that, and some of them were clearly not. And I thought, ‘heck, I could do that’,” Good Geise said.
She was right, running for a seat in the Montana Legislature in 1988 and winning.
“I went to the YWCA to check out a book about how to win an impossible campaign, and I unseated a seven-term incumbent and I went to the legislature,” Good Geise told MTN News.
During her time inside the capitol building, Good Geise says that any doubts in her mind melted away.
“The truth is, when I got there, I thought ‘ooh this is where I’m supposed to be.’ It felt very natural to me, it made a lot of sense to me and I really, really loved it,” Good Geise said.
She then found herself in a new role during a time of historic change in Montana politics.
“I was the chair of the Montana Republican Party and was instrumental in engineering the single biggest legislative shift in the country that year.–.in 1992,” Good Geise recalled.
She describes that work as intense but incredible, “the results were so surprising that the newspapers reported it wrong the next day.” That was the same year that Mark Roscoe won his race for governor.
“And I got to play a part in that. As a kid, did I ever think I would ever have that opportunity, absolutely not,” Good Geise said.
She eventually became the chief policy advisor at the Montana Public Service Commission, again during an important time — as it dealt with the fallout from utility deregulation.
“And the sale of NorthWestern Energy. It was a billion dollar deal and everybody was looking at us,” Good Geise said.
From that position she found herself married, living in Augusta and working as the librarian, “I loved it. I wasn’t in the newspaper, I wasn’t controversial. Life was pretty ducky. My commute was a half a block,” Good Geise said.
But life with books in the small Rocky Mountain Front town of Augusta would come to an end when another opportunity came knocking. A Lewis and Clark County Commission seat had become vacant.
“I had no intention – none, zero. They had not had an Augusta commissioner since 1906,” Good Geise said.
But after a series of interviews — and perhaps some luck — she was appointed to the commission in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since then. “I have gotten over being surprised when I’m able to rise to the occasion.”
She also has some advice for other folks who are hesitant to go after what they want.
“Sometimes we are just too afraid to just shoot for it. Sometimes you just think…not me. I’m not smart enough, I’m not pretty enough, I don’t have the right education, I don’t have any money. And you know, those things are only barriers so long as you let them be,” Good Geise said.
Susan added that the one thing she regrets in her life is not keeping a journal to help her remember everything that has happened in her life.
Reporting by Mikenzie Frost for MTN News