Brian Roat, who is stepping down from political life after serving Red Lodge for 35 years, was greeted with a rapturous recept ion at the Beartooth Elk’s Lodge last weekend when a “Tribute Party” was held in his honor.
Newly elected Red Lodge Mayor Ed Williams presented Roat with a key to the City, the first time this has been done for an outgoing official. The key, made by Back Alley Metals, acknowledged Roat’s tenure from 1978 to 2013.
Williams told the audience it was a “Huge privilege to be here to honor my friend Brian Roat. To the best of our knowledge no one before him, and probably no one after, has put in 35 years of public service.”
Williams thanked Sharon Roat, Brian’s wife, “for allowing Brian to do this.”
It required “involvement and time of more than just Brian but every one involved in his life,” said Williams.
In response Roat thanked everyone for being there.
“It is kind of a paradox to be recognized for being able to do something you like to do. It really hasn’t been a project at all. It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve. The philosophy I’ve had, as I’ve had the Mayor’s job four times, is “don’t stay too long, otherwise they’ll throw rocks at you,” said Roat. “I will treasure this,” he said looking at the key.
Roat, who didn’t know about this event until three days before, said he’d been further surprised by the arrival of his son, Dan, from Virginia. Dan Roat talked of his dad, saying, “What you see is what you get.”
“Growing up as his son, difficult at best,” he joked. “I remember calling him up, and told him I joined the Navy. His response was ‘oh, darn.’ “
Dan Roat finished by proudly saying he’s followed his dad’s values, namely “just do your best.”
Elk’s Lodge Exalted Ruler Joel Todd called Roat “a very loyal Elk” and Warene Wall called him a “true patriot.”
Council President Glory Mahan, who organized the event, also thanked Roat for all the “years, and years and years” he’d given to the community. Council member Bill Foisy praised Roat for giving him the best training he needed on Montana Codes and City codes when he was voted in.
Mitzi Vorachek recalled signing a contract with Roat for land beside the Carbon County Historical Society on a garbage can in the alley.
“He’s always ready to help out,” she said.
Local historian Tom Flaherty, who’s known Roat for many years, remembers being “kinda of afraid of him.”
“Brian would ride up and lean on a fence with his cap down. He looked pretty mean. Later we were classmates, and he wasn’t tough at all. We were the last two on the C- Squad for three years running,” Flathery laughed.
Diane Zook, President of Beartooth Humane Alliance, recalled Roat and his wife volunteering two days out of their lives for several years to help with the annual Nip and Tuck event. “I went to Brian and said, ‘How do you do this? You run the city, you have your own business,’ and he said ‘I do what is important,’” said Zook.
On a final note, Roat felt the whole event was “really something.”
“I’m in awe, it makes you pretty humble. Being recognized for something you like to do doesn’t make sense. If you had to work hard at it, but we didn’t. There were bumps in the road, the Supreme Court papers and recall petition. There have been days when you could have had a party like this and you might have come with a gun,” he joked.