Where Republicans Start Worried About Big Oil
Skarda, described in the local newspaper as “known for her ticklish pink nature,” walked around the oval table, hugging some on the shoulder, patting others on the back. She asked a man when his family would mark their calves and an older woman if she had had her flower garden planted.
Skarda grew up in the 1970s near Squaw Gap, just west of the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the unspoiled badlands south of the town of Watford. She and her siblings rode from the family farm to a one-class school. Now retired after years of working at the local bank, Skarda still wakes up early to feed the cattle and repair the fence at the ranch near Keene where she and her husband, Gary, raised three children.
Skarda is grateful for the economic benefits of the oil boom. But over a decade ago, she began to worry about the ailments that accompanied them, from increasing domestic violence to crime and traffic jams, in addition to saltwater spills and others. environmental pollution.
“The heartbreak over the oilfield,” she said, led her, while still working at the bank, to run for a seat on the McKenzie County Commission for the first time. ‘she occupies since 2014.
Skarda has since won more votes than any other candidate in her two elections, and she is now vice-chair of the commission, which manages local resources, from highways and roads to a county fairground that hosts an annual rodeo . At a recent meeting, she asked pointed questions about county balance sheets. And she took a decisive stand in the middle of the meeting, when the conversation turned to the requirements for fencing around freshwater ponds, built by some landowners to sell water for water harvesting operations. oil drilling. Skarda argued that no exceptions should be made to existing requirements for placing chain link fencing around ponds for safety reasons.
McKenzie County is not an overtly political place. In dozens of conversations over my two visits, I found that people did not often preach one particular doctrine or another. Partly, I guess, is because so many people share conservative views on central issues. And given the extent of the saltwater damage and other issues, there has been relatively little public recoil. But in recent years, Skarda, so well connected with her neighbors and their interests, has become a public watchdog, speaking out from her post on the County Committee Against the Oil Industry when things go wrong.
County committee seats are technically non-partisan. Skarda, a Republican, said she was guided by doing what’s right for voters, whether that’s making sure their tax dollars are spent wisely or their land is protected .