Helena Mayor’s race features two quality candidates. I recommend support for Jim Smith.

I’ve known Jim for over 50 years and had the good fortune to have known Jim as a student at Carroll College, to have worked with him as a fellow employee at Rocky Mountain Development Council and in more recent years worked with Jim in his role as Mayor.

I want to focus on the Mayor’s commitment to affordable housing and the success that the Helena community has enjoyed in producing affordable housing for our friends and neighbors, in large part because of Mayor Smith’s support of Rocky Mountain Development Council.

Since 1998 there have been 400+ units of permanent affordable housing added to the City of Helena. In all of these efforts, the City was involved, supportive, and often provided significant funding for projects through the Federal HOME and CDBG programs.

City Staff supported grants, served as the grantee and provided money to ten projects that comprised the 400+ units of long term rental housing. The City participated in successful efforts to provide group homes for youth, shelter beds for homeless families and veterans, and shelter beds for victims of domestic violence.

The Willis Cruse House, the Friendship Center, the YWCA and God’s Love projects have all benefited from City support of affordable housing. Rocky Mountain Development Council, in conjunction with the City, developed and built the Roadrunner project, Ptarmigan, Pheasant Glen, and the River Rock Residences projects, as well as three projects at Eagles Manor. The Wilder Street project and the Guardian Apartments were completed as well.

Mayor Smith led Helena City support and sponsorship of the Helena Housing Authority and constantly encouraged and supported the quality operation of 366 units of Public Housing, the 560 housing choice vouchers/Section 8 vouchers, the Family Investment Center, and the Early Learning Center on the Stewart Homes Campus. Mayor Smith attended the Helena Housing Authority meetings to understand and encourage their work. On several occasions, Mayor Smith traveled to Federal regional and national offices to advocate for the Helena Housing Authority and specifically for funding necessary to upgrade the Authorities’ 132 units on the Stewart Home Campus.

On many Saturday mornings over 15 years I listened to Mayor Smith congratulate First Time Home Buyer program graduates. The Mayor would tell them his personal story of purchasing his first home. Jim would visit about the value of homeownership and its affect it had on his family, and the positive connection that home ownership provides families to the larger community.

Jim Smith’s long term, consistent support of affordable housing has made Helena a leading community in securing high quality affordable housing for our friends and neighbors. Mayor Smith continues to lead the Commission’s efforts with the Helena Housing Authority, and other projects proposed by Rocky Mountain Development Council to expand affordable housing in Helena.

Mayor Smith’s leadership and commitment has been critical to this effort. His interest and participation in affordable housing will continue to produce results for the Helena community.

Please vote for Mayor Smith’s re-election.

Gene Leuwer