Freshman Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, said he will resign his Senate seat following adjournment of the Legislature to pursue a new preaching opportunity out of state.
Hutton, who defeated former Democratic House Speaker Bob Bergren in the Nov. 2 election, said he plans to move to Nebraska to preach at the Kingsway Christian Church in Omaha after the Legislature wraps up business later this spring.
Hutton is the senior minister at the Fifth Avenue Christian Church in Havre where he has preached for 14 years. He said he informed the congregation there of his decision earlier this week.
"When you are a preacher opportunities come your way randomly, and sometimes they are opportunities you have to take," Hutton said in an interview on the Senate floor Thursday.
Hutton, just a few month into the first year of a four-year Senate term, serves on the agriculture, judiciary and public health committees. He will resign effective upon completion of the legislative session.
His departure will trigger a process in which county commissioners in Blaine and Hill Counties will name a replacement from a list of candidates provided by the Republican central committees in those counties.
Hutton is the second Republican Senator to announce his resignation this session. Polson Sen. John Brueggeman resigned his seat shortly after the Republican caucuses in November. He was replaced by Sen. Carmine Mowbray.
Hutton said he plans to speak with Republicans Reps. Wendy Warburton and Kris Hansen, both of Havre, and members of the central committees, and the Blaine & Hill County Commissioners to ensure a timely replacement and smooth transition.
Hutton said the decision to leave the Legislature was not easy.
"My priorities are my family first, my church second, and my priority to the Senate is third," Hutton said. "That's not to say I don't take my duties here seriously. I want to finish strong here."
Hutton said he will fly to Omaha on weekends and breaks to meet with officials and members of his new congregation.
Hutton said the toughest part of leaving will be saying goodbye to the church in Havre and to members of his hometown church in Turner, where he occasionally preached over the past decade.
"I'm looking forward to a new beginning for me and my family," Hutton said. "This will be a great opportunity to use my leadership abilities in a new setting."