This week, Howard Heffelfinger, an exceptional Montana public servant, will be retiring after more than 40 years of service to the citizens of our state. His career began with the State Board of Equalization before the Department of Revenue was created in the early 1970s. Although he served in many capacities in the revenue department, his greatest contributions came in the last 25 years as the department’s first and, until recently, only Dispute Resolution Officer. In that position, he heard appeals by citizens and businesses on tax and liquor issues.
Howard worked tirelessly issuing decisions that reflected his careful research and sound judgment. He brought a great sense of fairness and unquestionable integrity to his work. When the facts and the laws justified it, he would not hesitate to modify or overrule the department’s actions in a case. Such rulings improved the department’s decisions for all Montanans.
More important than the substance of his decisions was the manner in which he presided over cases. Howard deeply respects the citizens of Montana and their rights under the law. He would go out of his way to make certain that citizens, many of whom would represent themselves, had a full and complete opportunity to be heard in his proceedings. Even if a final ruling did not favor the citizen’s position, they would know, nonetheless, that they were listened to and respected. In this way, Howard sought to build the people’s trust in their government whose duty it is to serve them fairly and effectively under the law.
Howard Heffelfinger is a humble man who has worked hard and well for the people of Montana. In the process, he has helped make Montana a better place for all of us.