By JOHN KIRK VINCENT/Montana State News
Jennifer Blossom reminisced of her time spent south of the border as she finished a letter to a woman living in a Mexican prison. She met her pen pal during one of many missions’ trips to the poverty-stricken nation.
“She’s put away for quite a few more years,” Blossom says, “so at least I’ll have someone to talk to for a bit longer.”
It is a typical weekday at the courthouse, busy bodies shuffling between floors and offices with various paperwork and agendas. The people waiting in line to renew their vehicle registration or to order license plates are bewildered by the inter-office traffic. The looks on their faces express confusion of the individual roles of each passerby. Sitting down upstairs at Blossom’s desk – flooded with paperwork and three-ring binders – she insists, “everyone has a role. Sometimes we need to reassess just what that role is, but it all works out in the end.”
Over the years, Blossom has established a number of close relationships through her job and during her travels to Mexico. Many of the impoverished people in that nation have benefited from her philanthropic activities ranging from food donation and nourishment to relocation and assisted rehabilitation. She considers this to be some of her best time spent.
Blossom was elected Gallatin County auditor because she goes beyond the ballot in regard to public welfare. It is her commitment to greater society and humble – often sarcastic – charm that distinguishes Blossom as a neighbor and not another ghost candidate.
When asked what the auditor does, Blossom takes a moment to respond. Without reciting her duties or the mission statement of the office, she answers simply to avoid confusion of legal jargon. She gets the county’s bills paid in a timely manner following a detailed analysis of each transaction. Grinning, Blossom seems a little unsure where the conversation is headed – many previous interviewers have taken the opportunity to challenge the greater role of government within even a localized setting.
Blossom comments on the life within the courthouse as though it were high school. Even among the daily operations, plenty of drama remains. She compares the environment to television series’ like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” claiming the building is “ripe for lawsuits.” She laughs as she explains they are having fun while still getting the work done.
While Blossom is in constant communication with the surrounding offices, she relies on a much smaller group to keep the ball rolling. She has two assistants – Nathaniel Pehl and Dezarae Brewington – who help keep Blossom on her toes. The trio, dubbed the “Go-Team,” has a recurring list of duties. Though officially colleagues, the three are more friends than anything. A smirking Pehl said he, “looks forward to reading the report” on their tight knit group. Even Blossom laughs about the idea of an inside look at their work, wryly commenting she is “bi-polar crazy.”
Blossom’s roots are not strictly political. Native to Great Falls, she was adopted and raised by a conservative family. During her adolescence, Blossom was sent to a reform school for her outlandish behavior she says she “thankfully grew out of.” She moved to California where she had her first child, Jenna. Blossom then relocated to North Dakota to study sociology and earn her degree before moving to Bozeman in 1993. Following an elongated stint in the service industry at a number of local bars and restaurants, she began her political career.
Blossom worked in the County Grants Office part-time for three years, interacting extensively with Auditor Joyce Schmidt – who she would eventually unseat. When she finally decided to run for the position, there was quite a bit of hesitation among her cohorts as to whether she could pull it off. One of her greater advocates even took pen to paper to prove there was just no way she could win.
Blossom won her first election and has since run twice unopposed for the four-year position. She is proud of her accomplishments and is forever loyal to the political system.
However, Blossom claims nothing has ever made her feel more needed then her time in Mexico. Her hands-on experiences have led her to say with certainty, “I am defeating when and where I can.”
With an uncertain future, Blossom will continue to divide her time between career and life’s work. An official goal of the Auditor’s office is to “effect change when needed and support existing good practices.” This attitude is true of Blossom’s personal and professional interests. While she keeps the county lights on, a few less people thousands of miles away will go to sleep hungry in their homes made of cardboard.
– Edited by Autumn Toennis