Leadership Means Kindness and Respect
By Mary Branham, CSG Managing Editor
When Liz Bangerter was a child, one question would frequently come up at dinner.
“What have you done to make the world a better place today?”
Her parents were very active in community groups and her brothers were all involved in Boy Scouts.
“Community service and civic duty were a huge deal in our family,” said Bangerter. “So that kind of tied into that—what have you done to make the world a better place? How have you served someone else? How have you done your duty to help somebody else?”
Even so, Bangerter balked slightly when she was asked to run for the Montana House of Representatives.
“I thought they were absolutely crazy because I’m the worst politician ever,” she said. “I’m not very confrontational. My personality does not lend itself very well to the political arena.”
But she got the chance to visit the capitol in Helena and was instantly hooked. The major draw—few young women and even fewer conservative young women—served there. Most of the women in the House were either older retirees or career women.
“I felt like, who’s there representing me?” said Bangerter, a stay-at-home mom of three teenage daughters.
She ran for the seat representing the state capital in 2010 and was elected to serve starting with the 2011 session.
Since then, she’s found her personality is suited to serving in the Montana House. Bangerter looks to two primary influences for leadership—her parents, Bruce and Bev Whiting of Lander, Wyo. Each one modeled a different leadership style and Bangerter was able to see the pros and cons of each.
“Really, what it boils down to is kindness and its example,” she said. “First and foremost, you have to treat everyone with respect.
“Maybe it’s because I have three teenage daughters, so I can negotiate with terrorists,” she said, laughing. “The key is they have to feel like they are being listened to. You really do have to listen and treat them with respect.”
Bangerter, a 2012 CSG Toll Fellow, saw different leadership styles in play during the five-day experience.
“It helped me understand myself better because I don’t have the personality type that’s real aggressive or confrontational,” she said. “I’m more of a peacemaker kind of person, but it helped me see the strengths of being the peacemaker.
“I have strengths that I can offer. I can bring people together.”
That’s what Bangerter strives to do in serving her constituents, who she recognizes are her neighbors and parents of her daughters’ friends. Her district, like all in Montana, serves about 10,000 constituents. Unlike other Montana districts, though, hers is more compact. It takes about 45 minutes to drive the outer boundary, compared to six hours for other districts.
“It makes it very personal,” she said of the size of her district. “I enjoy that because I feel like I have a pretty good pulse about what is going on.
“It’s really personal in Montana simply because we have fewer people and we have 100 representatives. People’s voices are really heard, I think.”
Bangerter, a Wyoming native, has learned a lot about her adopted state in the 18 years she’s lived there. So much, in fact, that she drives the Historic Helena Last Chance Train Tour train during the summer. Not only does she drive the 100-foot long tour train—which runs on rubber wheels and has open-air cars—she also narrates the history.
“Most people want to know why there was so much money in Helena. We have lots and lots of historic mansions and historic buildings,” she said.
At one time, Helena had more millionaires per capita than any city west of the Mississippi River. It all can be traced back to the gold rush.
When she’s not playing conductor or working at the capitol, Bangerter likes to hunt and fish with her husband Carl and three daughters, Brittany, Shelly and Sydney. The self-professed adrenaline junkie also likes to water ski and snow ski.
She’s a hard-core runner and biker who typically arises at 5 a.m. each day to get in physical activity before heading to the capitol at 7 a.m.
“It kind of helps keep me in balance. I can do a lot of thinking then,” she said.