Judy Smith made Missoula and Montana a better place

by Pete Talbot

Much has already been written about the passing of Judy Smith, here are her obituary and a Front Page story in today’s Missoulian.

Her accomplishments would make this post longer than anything I’ve ever written here before.  One thing that wasn’t mentioned in either the obit or the news story was her involvement in the grand experiment known as the New Party.

Judy was one of the lead organizers of the Missoula chapter and, with others, advocated for the process of consensus when dealing with policy, party business, campaigns, etc.

Consensus could be slow and unwieldy, and meetings often dragged on for hours.  Coming from (usually male-dominated) institutions that relied on the arguments from the loudest, most quick-witted and aggressive members to carry the day, this was a radical change for me.

Judy explained to me why we used the consensus model.  It allowed everyone to weigh in on decision making, including the quiet and shy, and often their input was as valuable, if not more so, than that from the bold and outspoken.  It gave everyone a stake in the process.

Although I don’t always succeed, I try to keep this model in mind in my dealings with organizations and people.  I have also tried to impart this wisdom to my children, and now my grandchildren.

The New Party no longer exists but the philosophy and goals of the party live on in like-minded people and organizations in Montana and around the country, many of them inspired by the work of Judy.

Judy Smith made Missoula and Montana better places. And I, and so many others, are better people for having known and worked with Judy.

P.S.  While I didn’t know John Lynn nearly as well as I knew Judy, I saw his obit in today’s paper and it made me sad. Boom — a pulmonary embolism at age 62.  He ran as a Democrat for the legislature twice in close races in what is now District 100 but he couldn’t beat the odds.  It’s the most conservative district in Missoula County — Champ Edmunds represents it now — and just finding a Democratic candidate to run in that district has always been a challenge.

He was a mental health care professional and served that overlooked constituency for decades.  And I eagerly anticipated our conversations on progressive politics over the occasional beverage at the Missoula Club.  My deepest sympathies to his family.

As I grow older, I imagine I’ll be seeing more obituaries of friends who have influenced me over the years.  I don’t like it.


  1. Judy Smith was a towering figure in Missoula politics, social justice and creating the way for women to assume their place in the economy, public life and self-determination. Men benefitted from the work she devoted her life to, although they may not readily see it or acknowledge it. I didn’t always agree with Judy and she didn’t always agree with me. No doubt there were times when I contributed to her frustration about Missoula.
    At the end of the day, though, she loved Missoula, she loved the life here, she loved the people here, she wanted a better life for them and put herself where she could make the most difference. For that, we were not that different. She will always be someone I will learn from.

  2. petetalbot

    I just deleted the third comment, ever, from a post I’ve written.
    It was a nasty, personal attack on the P.S. obit above. Let John rest in peace. He has a family, you know.

    • lizard19

      that was a terrible comment, geez.

  3. Susan Dietsche

    I don’t know who could have anything nasty to say about John Lynn. I worked with John for 15 years and he was the most intelligent, generous, hard-working and loving man I have ever known. He will be so missed by the people who knew and loved him. He worked so hard for the rights and the treatment of people who suffer from mental illness. The people of Montana lost out when he wasn’t elected to serve them, because serve them he would have, with all the enthusiasm he gave to everything that he did. We lost a great man, too young, too soon. I, personally, grieve the loss of one of the best men I have ever known and loved. RIP John.

  1. 1 Best Montana Political Blog Posts of 2013 :: Intelligent Discontent

    […] Judy Smith made Missoula and Montana a better place […]




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