Ruth Ann Swaney

With her appointment to fill the vacant Ward 2 City Council seat in January, Ruth Ann Swaney became the first Native American woman to serve on the council. "As a Native person," Swaney says, "if you want to see more representation, you have to throw your hat in the ring. I want to see Native people as part of Missoula." She announced this week her coming resignation to move home to North Dakota.

The Missoula City Council soon will be taking applications from citizens who want to fill Councilwoman Ruth Ann Swaney's seat through the first Monday of January 2020.

This January, Swaney became the first Native American to join the council when councilors selected her to represent Ward 2 after Councilman Harlan Wells took a job with the Montana Secretary of State.

At this week's council meeting, Swaney announced she would soon resign her post and return home to North Dakota and work for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in the tribal education department.

Tuesday, City Clerk Marty Rehbein said the city will announce the vacancy and request for applications through news media as soon as it has official notice and a resignation date. The council will then take applications for 10 calendar days.

At the following council meeting, council members will select the applicants they'd like to interview, Rehbein said. A council committee will conduct interviews, and the full council will subsequently make nominations.

"Somebody has to have seven votes," Rehbein said.

And she said the nominee who gets seven votes gets the seat.

A twist in the nominations is possible. Rehbein said if the council goes through two rounds of identical votes cast and no one gets seven, the council may open up nominations to people who didn't originally apply.

This year, elected municipal offices are up for grabs, and Swaney's name is unopposed on the ballot for Ward 2.

Rehbein said the deadlines have passed to remove her name or declare an official write-in candidate, so the person the council appoints this fall will serve until a successor is elected, qualified and seated following the 2019 city election.

That means the successful applicant will serve through the first Monday of January 2020, but applicants who want to represent the ward now don't have to run for office in 2019, she said.

Rehbein said the process is designed to ensure no time lapses between the appointment and actual vacancy. She said it's also designed to allow the current council member to participate in choosing her successor.

After Swaney announced her departure Monday, fellow council members praised her work and insight. 

"Your perspective will be missed, and I appreciate your service," said Councilman Bryan Von Lossberg, one of two council members who nominated Swaney in January.

Councilman Jordan Hess, who also represents Ward 2, lauded his fellow ward mate as well.

"Liberty and justice for all is an aspirational statement, and Dr. Swaney works tirelessly to turn that aspiration into enduring reality," Hess said.

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Reporter for the Missoulian