Remembering Mike Pichette
In Astronomy the term “Constant Candle” is used to denote a star that shines in a way that allows the depth and the shape of the universe to be measured. This past weekend the Montana Democratic family lost one of our “constant candles” when Mike Pichette passed away. Mike was a journeyman fighter for the Democratic Party and its principals, and principles.
After serving in the JFK-inspired Peace Corps, Mike joined the DC staff of Montana’s Democratic Western District Congressman Arnold Olsen. When Olsen was defeated in 1970, Mike returned to Montana where he went to work for Montana’s Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Delores (Dodie) Colburg. Mike was snatched from that position in spring of 1974 when he was selected to be the Montana Democratic Party’s 5th Executive Director (then called Executive Secretary). Mike guided the Montana Democratic Party through the 1974, 1976 and 1978 elections, the second longest tenure as Executive Director in the history of the State Party. The performance of the party during Mike’s tenure was extraordinary. In the 1974 election, Montana Democrats recaptured the Western District Congressional seat (Max Baucus) and retained the Eastern District seat (John Melcher). Also in 1974, the Party’s legislative effort under Mike resulted in the largest Democratic House majority in modern history (67 of 100 House seats were Democratic, and we had 30 of the 50 State Senators). In 1976, Mike helped the Democrats retain the Governorship (Tom Judge/Ted Schwinden) and Mike Mansfield’s US Senate seat (won by John Melcher) as well as retaining Western District Congressman Max Baucus). In 1978, he helped Montana Democrats retain Lee Metcalf’s Senate seat (electing Max Baucus) and retained the Western District seat with Pat Williams’ first Congressional victory. Mike left the state party in late 1979 to take a position in Washington with Montana’s Democratic senior U.S. Senator John Melcher. Upon his return to Montana, Mike became a government affairs representative with Montana Power Company (later Northwestern Energy) where he was the primary point of contact for Democratic legislators.
Because of Mike’s passion for public policy and the political process, he dedicated a lifetime to teaching others about government. He was an advisor at Boys State and Youth in Government and he made his career in politics. He worked closely with Governors Judge and Schwinden as well as the Members of Congress mentioned above. Mike was also the keeper of the party rules and served as chairman of the rules committee even when he might not have wanted to. Many will remember moments where a call to “get Mike” was the only way a convention or vote could go forward. His dedication to fairness and compassion should prompt all of us to rededicate our work toward achieving a better world.
There will be a celebration of Mike’s life at Jorgenson’s on Thursday, September 29. The family will begin receiving guests at 4:30 p.m. and friends will share memories of Mike beginning at 5:00 p.m.
He is survived by a family who loved him: Alicia, daughters Anne and Claire, son-in-law John Dendy, brother David, and sister-in-law Toni Cross.
Mike was a Key Club International Trustee and continued his service work in Kiwanis throughout his life. A Key Club Service Scholarship has been established in his memory to benefit students dedicated to service. Contributions may be made to the Mike Pichette Scholarship Fund c/o Valley Bank P.O. Box 5269, Helena, MT 59604.