Both the offices of mayor for Helena and city commission are drawing interest as the number of candidates exceeds the seats to be filled.
The period for filing opened April 20 and closes June 19, said Audrey McCue, Lewis and Clark County elections supervisor.
There is an $85 fee to file for the office of mayor in Helena, which pays $8,500 annually and up to $150 per month for expenses. The fee to file for city commission is $68 and the office pays $6,800 a year with $100 per month available for expenses, according to information provided by McCue.
Jim Smith, who is completing his fourth four-year term as mayor, is seeking re-election for this non-partisan office and will face Wilmot Collins.
Collins, 53, has been a Helena resident for 23 years and works for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services as a child protection specialist.
In an emailed response to questions, which was sent earlier this week to all of those running for office, Collins also said he’s an adjunct instructor at the University of Montana – Helena College where he teaches psychology.
Collins is also a member of the Navy Reserves.
“I am running for mayor because I want to work for and give back to the people of Helena. I want to focus on affordable housing in our community and teenage homelessness. I also want to address vacancies in our police and fire departments and funding gaps in those essential services.
“As mayor, I want to bring fresh ideas and perspectives. I will come in with the energy a mayor needs to tackle the business of the great city of Helena,” he wrote.
Smith, 68, retired as a lobbyist at the end of 2016. He came to Helena in 1966 to attend Carroll College and has lived here since 1978.
“Helena is a wonderful city. I believe I have the experience and understanding required to be a good mayor for another four years,” he wrote.
If returned to office, his top priority would be “to continue to provide the best possible city services to residents, businesses and guests; to continue the important work of maintaining and improving the city’s infrastructure; to work more closely with Lewis and Clark County and the Helena school district on community-wide issues.”
Two seats on the city commission will be filled this year and Commissioner Dan Ellison, who is completing his second four-year term, said on Wednesday that he has no plans to seek re-election.
Commissioner Andres Haladay, who joined Ellison on the commission in 2014, filed for re-election. Also running are Gary Spaeth, Heather O’Loughlin and Sean Logan.
Logan, 52, is recently retired after having served 20 years as a Helena firefighter and fire chief. He has lived in Helena 49 years after his family moved here in 1968 when he was age 3.
“I am running for office as I think I have unique work experiences and skills that qualify me for the position of Helena city commissioner and to continue my many years of service to Helena,” Logan wrote.
“As a firefighter, I've been involved in direct service delivery to the citizens of Helena. I have a very hands-on understanding of the socioeconomic conditions in Helena's neighborhoods and business districts.
“During my tenure as fire chief, I have developed strong, positive working relationships with the public and with city of Helena leadership (department directors, commissioners, City Manager). I have a solid understanding of the role and responsibilities of a Helena city commissioner having attended and participated in most administrative and regular commission meetings while I was fire chief.”
“I've worked with neighborhood groups and businesses to find solutions to their concerns with living and working within Helena. So, I hope to bring those relationships and skills into the role of Helena City Commissioner to help our community continue to be a great place to call home,” Logan continued.
“If elected, my top priority would be to dedicate my time to the hard work the City Commission needs to do to provide essential services and infrastructure to our citizens.
“The Helena City Commission and city staff have limited time and financial resources available, and it is imperative that our focus is on those essentials to ensure that we can meet the demands placed on them by a growing Helena community,” Logan added.
Haladay, 34, is an assistant attorney general with the state of Montana and has lived in Helena seven years.
“We’ve had some great accomplishments over the last 3½ years. Helena now has long-term funding plans for critical water, sewer and street infrastructure. The city has an improved and expanded two-route bus system. We’ve implemented curbside recycling. The financing district in the Sixth Ward will promote growth and investment in a core neighborhood. The Centennial Trail now runs through the heart of Helena, providing a backbone for non-motorized transportation.
“We implemented tiered water rates to encourage conservation and created a revolving loan fund for renewable energy loans, allowing residents to invest in energy independence.”
Haladay said he was running for re-election to ensure these programs are maintained and to build upon them.
His top priority if given another term would be to implement the downtown master plan.
“Downtown Helena is one of our city’s greatest assets. It attracts tourists, small businesses, diners and shoppers. The master plan provides a blueprint for economic development in our city’s core. It’s also the best bang for our buck when it comes to return on investment of public dollars.
“I also want to prioritize affordable housing. Helena needs a combination of rentals and housing stock available to residents at or below the median income. We need to explore partnerships with organizations that will build or manage affordable housing and explore the creation of a land trust that will promote a continual supply of affordable homeownership,” Haladay’s email stated.
O’Loughlin, 36, is the co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, a non-profit organization focused on advancing policies to improve the lives of Montana families with low and moderate incomes.
She wrote that she was born in Montana and served as a policy advisor and counsel for then Sen. Max Baucus before moving back to Montana and the Helena community in 2014 to raise her family.
“As a Helena city commissioner, I look forward to listening to the needs of community members in ways we can improve our city. I will work to find ways that we can encourage smart development within our historic downtown, address ongoing public safety and infrastructure needs and expand affordable housing,” she wrote.
“As a mom and the director of a local non-profit, I am excited about this opportunity to give back to the community I love,” O’Loughlin stated in an announcement that she, Collins and Haladay were running.
“As a city commissioner, I will promote smart development within our historic downtown community, affordable housing, and foster our great outdoors for our neighbors and visitors.”
According to a news release, “The three candidates (Haladay, Collins and O’Loughlin) plan to run as a slate by providing a clear message to Helena that they represent a positive path forward for Helena through fresh, new leadership.”
“They are committed to investing in infrastructure, openness to new ideas for future growth, and timely responding to the needs of Helena residents,” the news release noted.
Spaeth, 71, is the chairman of the Helena Citizens Council, a role he’s held for two years, he wrote.
Based on that chairmanship, his email said he believes he can make a contribution as a city commissioner.
He’s also been a Helena resident intermittently since 1974.
Spaeth retired from the state of Montana where he was assistant chief counsel for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. He also wrote that while serving four terms in the state House, he was appropriations chairman and majority whip.
His top priority if elected would be to solve traffic snares on Montana Avenue.
The qualifications to file for mayor are that the candidate be at least 21 years old, a citizen of the United States, registered to vote, a Montana resident for at least three years and a Helena resident for at least two years, according to information provided by the county’s elections office.
Those running for city commission must be age 18 or older, a U.S. citizen, registered to vote and a resident of the city for at least 60 days preceding the election.