Address: 1954 Stuart
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Education: Montana State University, B.S. Mathematics, Honors Graduate 1987
I was hired in 1996 by the Helena Fire Department as a firefighter and served our community for 20 years. I progressed through the ranks and was promoted into the administration of the department, serving the last three years of my career as the fire chief. My time as a firefighter and fire officer taught me the importance of effective delivery of city services that are needed by citizens and businesses. It also gave me a working knowledge of all services, such as police, fire, parks, streets and utilities, that are provided by our municipal government to make Helena a great place to work and live.
My service in fire department administration has shown me the value of effective budgeting and the reality of how constrained municipal budgets are. It is very difficult for the City of Helena to grow with the demands of a growing community. Our police and fire departments, fundamental to Helena’s safety and security, have not, at the street level, grown in over 20 years. Yet, the demand on them in that time has more than doubled. For our fire department, this can mean delayed responses, or in some cases, no response to 911 emergencies. Our general fund capital improvement budgets struggle to meet the needs of operations such as fire, parks, and police. Annually, about a third of those big-ticket needs (vehicle, facility, equipment replacement and repair) are met, deferring the other two-thirds into a more expensive future. We must responsibly support the maintenance and repair of our streets and utilities infrastructure, which have shortfalls of well over $100 million. Properly maintained utilities ensure public health, safety and security with clean water, and the effective removal of wastewater and stormwater from our homes and businesses. Properly maintained streets support the needs of citizens, commerce and effective delivery of emergency services. These are all significant challenges for Helena. Budgets are very tight. We can’t afford to spend tax dollars on narrow, special interest projects. Revenues must support these essential functions first to have the broadest impact on all who live and work in Helena.
My work experience has taught me the importance of collaborative leadership in dealing with challenges that face a community. One of the hallmarks of my career was the ability to establish positive, effective relationships with those in my department and outside of it. As fire chief, I reached out to city leadership (city manager, Commissioners) and department heads to share assistance where we could and maybe even ask for help along the way. I developed trusted relationships with neighboring agencies, including EMS and law enforcement. I collaborated with our neighboring firefighting agencies (rural volunteer, state and federal) to help plan for and protect against hazards impacting the greater Helena area. I worked closely with nonprofits to help educate citizens and businesses about the significant risks of wildfire to our community and helped them take action. I successfully engaged the business community to facilitate the challenging relationship between economic development and the enforcement of the fire code.
Why are you running for this office?
I am a lifelong resident of Helena who cares a great deal about this community. Helena raised me, and I was very fortunate to have successfully served in a career where I was able to give back to my hometown. I find public service to be very rewarding, and I see the Helena City Commission as a way to continue in service to a great community.
What do you hope to accomplish in this office?
Recently, the Helena City Commission has raised awareness about issues such as a mine in Meagher County, opening relations with Cuba and accepting terms of the Paris Climate Accord to name a few. I hope to raise awareness about issues and challenges affecting Helena. I don’t believe the average Helenan is aware of those essential service and infrastructure problems addressed previously in my answers. We cannot hope to effectively address those challenges without community support and awareness is the first step down the path to finding solutions.
Also, as I’ve been campaigning, one thing I’ve heard clearly from the business sector is that Helena can be a difficult place to bring a project. We can do better and it starts at the top. While I am in office, I hope that businesses would find Helena a viable and approachable community for economic development.
Why should people vote for you?
I will bring a leadership style that is approachable and respectful. Whether you are a citizen, business leader, member of city staff or fellow commissioner, you will always come away feeling like you've been heard, respected and treated with civility. I bring experienced leadership with the City of Helena. Essential services, infrastructure and economic development will be key priorities for me as a Helena City Commissioner.