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Helena City Commission appoints interim manager on split vote

Helena City Commission appoints interim manager on split vote

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The Helena City Commission hired the Friendship Center's former executive director Melinda Reed as interim city manager on a 3-2 vote Monday.

Mayor Wilmot Collins and Commissioners Andres Haladay and Heather O'Loughlin voted in favor of the appointment, and Commissioners Sean Logan and Emily Dean voted against it.

While Logan and Dean have both said Reed appears to be a good fit, they have expressed concern that the city commission did not have an opportunity to discuss potential candidates before being asked to approve Reed's contract.

Dean called the outcome of the vote "predetermined."

Logan said the interim city manager selection process was "not transparent governance."

"I cannot support this not because of the individual, but because of the process," Logan said.

Haladay dismissed the two newest commissioners' concerns. He said he was confused by their assertion that they were not consulted.

Public comment was mostly split between those voicing support for Reed and those decrying the process.

Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise spoke on behalf of "mutual constituents," raising concerns about how the commission decided on Reed.

"Give Ms. Reed a level playing field as she starts what will be an exceptionally challenging task," Good Geise told the city commissioners. "Do not burden the new interim manager with any questions about the legitimacy of the process that resulted in her employment."

The city's contract with Reed runs from March 10 to Nov. 30 or until the permanent city manager's start date, whichever is sooner. She will earn a salary of $10,865 per month.

In addition to her role at the Friendship Center, Reed has worked as a program development adviser with American Refugee Committee, an international nonprofit based in Minnesota that offers services and resources to more than 3.5 million refugees.

Prior to moving back to Helena in January, Reed served as the executive director of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, also an international nonprofit.

O'Loughlin said the city is "incredibly fortunate" to have someone as qualified as Reed step up, citing a laundry list of important upcoming decisions on a number of city items.

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Local Government and Crime Reporter

Nolan Lister is a reporter at the Helena Independent Record with an emphasis on local government and crime.

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