Years ago, Bruce MacIntyre promised his wife, Linda, that he would never run for elected office.
He made the promise in spite of his love of politics, which he discovered as a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. He was a member of the delegation to a mock Democratic Convention that year — a delegation headed by Tom Judge, who would go on to be a Montana governor.
“It was my first introduction to the political world and I loved it,” MacIntyre said.
But Linda, he said, “did not want to be the wife of somebody in the public eye. She was a very, very private person.”
He kept his promise but managed to indulge his taste for politics by serving as the government affairs director for the Billings Chamber of Commerce from 2006 until his retirement last spring. In that role, he worked on issues important to the chamber on the city, county, state and national levels.
Though he wasn’t officially the chamber’s lobbyist, there were so many issues to cover that he played backup to Ed Bartlett, who lobbied for the chamber, the county and later the city of Billings. Backup meant spending two to three days a week in Helena when the Legislature was in session, testifying, providing information and buttonholing lawmakers.
And in 2007 he helped pass School District 2 levies totaling $4.3 million. The school district couldn’t raise money or promote the levy itself, so the chamber led the way, and the successful vote broke a five-year losing streak for levy requests.
Because of those achievements and more, the chamber announced Wednesday that MacIntyre is the 2017 winner of the Legacy Award, formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award. A press release from the chamber lauded MacIntyre for “his philanthropy, business support and dedication to the community.”
Chamber Board Chair Kris Carpenter said in the release that “Bruce’s leadership, passion for public policy and commitment to Billings are second to none. He is a valued member of the Billings community.”
After graduating from Notre Dame with a master’s in business administration, MacIntyre returned to Billings in 1960 to work at and eventually take over MacIntyre Motors, a Cadillac-Pontiac dealership founded by his grandfather. He sold that business 23 years later.
He managed Briarwood Golf Course as well as the Briarwood subdivision’s independent water and system before that area, under MacIntyre’s guidance, was annexed into the city. He also worked for MasterLube and City Vineyard before going to work for the chamber.
MacIntyre said his proudest achievement at the chamber was working to establish the Tourism Business Improvement District, which is funded by an assessment on hotel rooms and is dedicated to generating business for hotels and motels and marketing the Billings region as a travel destination.
Shortly after he retired from the chamber last spring, MacIntyre was appointed to the School District 2 Board of Trustees, replacing Rob Rogers, who resigned from the board to go back to reporting for the Billings Gazette.
MacIntyre, 80, was appointed to complete the last year of Rogers’s term, and he said he intends to seek election to a full term next year.
“I like it,” he said of serving on the board. “I like it very much. For years I was on the sidelines, whispering in somebody’s ear, for lack of a better term. Now I am on the decision-making side.”
If you’re wondering about that promise to his wife, Linda died last October.
“So that promise is gone,” he said.