Kirk is a proud and committed fourth-generation Montanan. Born, raised, and educated in the state, he is the son of Hazel and the late Don Bushman, and the eighth of twelve children. Kirk graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School and earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Montana State University – Bozeman. In his professional career, Kirk traveled extensively across the United States and abroad developing strong communication and leadership skills, which he has brought back to his home state. Kirk is married to Jill Pankratz, daughter of Larry and Colleen Pankratz, who farm and ranch in Opheim, Montana. Kirk and Jill reside in Billings with their four children.
My professional career began when I graduated in 1988 from Montana State University, Bozeman, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology. The first time I flew was for a job interview in Wisconsin for which I was hired as a field engineer in the “corrugated container” industry, yes, cardboard boxes. As a field engineer, I travelled extensively. I have had a hand in the making of many a pizza box across this great country. I was also fortunate to travel the world; many European countries and others such as Canada, Australia, Columbia, Thailand and more.
I managed major projects and had high expectations placed upon me with experience soon to follow. Working with people from different countries speaking different languages added to the many challenges that already existed. This involved managing all phases of a project from construction and installation to training plant personnel as well as performing to the terms of sales contracts. This required overcoming cultural differences and language barriers, as well as dealing with each group’s business interest. Communication and professionalism were key values needed to be successful.
With my heart still in Montana, I chose to move back home to Billings. Before being elected to the Public Service Commission, I worked with the engineering consulting firm, WorleyParsons (previously Unifield) Engineering, in the industrial engineering sector. I worked on projects with refineries, power plants, mining companies, silicon production facilities and more. Many were to meet government regulations, some were to increase production and efficiency and some were to recycle outdated facilities that had been shut down. Thankfully, I bring to the job a diverse background spanning more than 30 years in the private industry that will help me serve on the Commission. I have worked as a pool cleaner, driveway sweeper, cement worker, greens keeper, stock boy, bus boy, dish washer, drafter, truck driver, log home builder, pipefitter helper, laborer, announcer, field engineer and project manager.
In 2007, unwilling to leave the future to career politicians, I ran for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary. I continued gaining experience in politics serving as chairman of the Yellowstone County Republicans for three years. In 2012, I was honored to be elected to the District 2 seat on the Public Service Commission. The PSC deals with a wide variety of issues; some of them complicated, some entangled in government bureaucracy and a few influenced by politics. I have worked with companies who are both providers and users of Montana’s energy resources. I have been involved in projects helping companies improve energy production and meeting environmental regulations. Montana needs a commission that can find a balance between energy cost, consumer needs and mandated regulations.