The Missoula City Council said goodbye to sitting Ward 4 representative Caitlin Copple on Monday night and appointed her replacement in a vote that went six rounds before giving the seat to Patrick Weasel Head.

The Vietnam veteran becomes the first Native American to take the post and brings his advocacy work volunteering for Meals on Wheels and driving for the Disabled Veterans of America.

The University of Montana business and accounting graduate who earned a Ph.D. in educational policy from the University of Oregon also supports the city’s acquisition of Mountain Water.

“I’m involved in the social things in the city, and I try to understand people’s thoughts to bring that forward,” Weasel Head said after winning the seat. “I’m trying to be a realist about this. You can’t solve all the problems, but I want to be part of that system.”

Six applicants applied for Copple’s seat, though only four were nominated for the first round of voting, including Dudley Improta, Greg Gullickson, John DiBari and Weasel Head.

Each applicant received at least two votes after round one, but by round two, Weasel Head and DiBari had emerged as the clear favorites. By round four, DiBari had taken the lead, but several council members changed their votes in later rounds, giving Weasel Head the seven votes needed to claim the seat.

“Weasel Head brings a unique skill set and vastly different lens than anyone sitting on the council,” Copple said while nominating Weasel Head in the first round.

Weasel Head interviewed strongly on social issues, such as homelessness and poverty. DiBari ran strongly on development, planning and economic issues. Both favored the city’s attempts to acquire Mountain Water.

“My support for DiBari has to do with his thoughtful approach to governance,” said Ward 2 council member Jordan Hess. “Having a planner on the council will serve us very well in the future as the economy ticks up in Missoula.”

Before voting got underway, council members said their goodbyes to Copple, who has served on the council since 2012. She announced in January her plans to relinquish her seat to focus on her job as a principal with Hilltop Public Solutions – a strategic public affairs and political consulting firm.

“It’s a been a pleasures serving with you and working with you on Ward 4,” said Ward 4 council member Jon Wilkins. “You’re only two blocks away. Come on over for a beer.”

Council members lauded Copple for her efforts to push Missoula to the fore of the technology wave, particularly in creating open-access broadband. They also acknowledged her efforts to fight for equality for all of Missoula’s citizens.

“God, geeks, gays – love them all,” Copple said, giving her thanks. “It’s been an honor to serve each of you and it’s been a tremendous run.”

Weasel Head has served as the executive director of the Missoula Indian Center and worked at the Blackfeet Community College in 1983. Click here to read his full resume.

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