{{featured_button_text}}

So how old are these new Missoula City Council folks, anyway?

"One lady asked if I was 16," said Caitlin Copple, who won in Ward 4.

"My wife would hand out literature, and people would say, ‘What is he? 16?' She would say, ‘Well, he's my husband,' " said Adam Hertz, who won in Ward 2, although the race is close enough for an automatic recount.

Copple is actually 28, and she's owned a home in her district since she was 22 years old. Hertz is 26, and if the final results swing his way, he'll be the youngest member of the Missoula City Council.

On Monday, the Missoula County Elections Office will count a handful of remaining ballots that got proper signatures by 5 p.m. Wednesday, and it will count the ballots from absentee voters. The canvass is 11 a.m. Tuesday, and the automatic recount in Ward 2 could come next Wednesday.

The body of 12 will skew younger regardless, with at least Copple on board and possibly Hertz.

It likely will be more liberal and moderate to a degree. Its voices also may be less querulous and cutting without a couple of incumbents who crabbed with Mayor John Engen. With Copple, it will include the point of view from someone who believes she's the first out gay woman to sit on the Missoula City Council.

All in all, the diversity in so many spheres means the local governing body looks quite a lot more like Missoula than it has in a while, said Engen. Engen, once a councilor himself, presides over council meetings on Monday nights.

"I like that spectrum of age and experience and gender and political points of view and geography," Engen said. "I think all that comes into play. You sort of want the Missoula City Council to look like Missoula, and I think this council probably looks more like Missoula, is more representative of Missoula in terms of some of those demographic questions, and frankly, I think its political nature, than councils have been in the past."

In a broad brushstroke, the council will be more liberal. With the departures of Councilwomen Lyn Hellegaard in Ward 4 and Renee Mitchell in Ward 5, it loses the two incumbents who opposed the Missoula equality ordinance and were a pair of its most outspoken fiscal conservatives.

While outspoken, those incumbents had trouble making inroads on financial matters. So the council has lost fiscal conservatives in numbers, but it may gain a more robust and effective representation of that viewpoint.

With Mike O'Herron in Ward 5, voters elected a fiscal conservative who already has been working on economic issues. If unofficial election results stand and Hertz wins in Ward 2, the council also will gain a finance professional who works as a loan consultant and retail pricing analyst.

Hertz would unseat Councilwoman Pam Walzer, and she would be the only progressive to fall this year on the City Council.

If he pulls out a win, Hertz said making inroads on budget matters will be more difficult than he expected without two more like-minded councilors.

"I always try to be positive, and I always try to work constructively and focus on facts, on the issues," Hertz said. "So I understand that there's probably going to be a supermajority agenda that glides easily through the council, and I don't want to be combative toward that."

He does want to share another perspective, though, and put some positive work into items before the council. He said time will tell if a supermajority emerges with a diversity of views.

***

Diversity is good, according to Engen, and at the polls, he believes people in Missoula said they want those views represented by positive people. So the election outcomes may bring a different tone to some of the council meetings.

"I think we're going to have occasional disagreements about all sorts of stuff, but I think those disagreements will be expressed in a reasonable way, and I think those disagreements will be centered around facts rather than personality, maybe," Engen said.

The mayor said newcomers face a learning curve on the budget, just like he did as a new councilor and a new mayor. Often, the budget intricacies are more complex than they appear on the campaign trail.

Cutting the budget, in other words, is easier said than done. But Engen also said he won't shut the door on Hertz or any others who bring him finance ideas. The city budget has been trimmed some 6 percent the past several years, and Engen said he fully expects to hear some new ideas from councilors for further cuts.

"I am absolutely open to that. I am open to ideas. It's really pretty simple to say we've got to tighten our belts. We've got to cut budgets. It's more difficult to determine how that's going to happen," Engen said.

Handily enough, adults of all ages and in every demographic can take a shot. Being young is one perspective from which Hertz views the budget and other matters in Missoula. It wasn't that long ago he graduated from college, couldn't find a good job in Missoula, left and eventually returned, got married and built a home here.

"Those will all have big impacts on the way I look at issues," Hertz said.

It's a different life experience than many from older generations. He moved to Seattle for a job in his field and eventually returned to Missoula for an commission-only job even though "my paycheck for a long time was zero dollars."

"I just love Montana, and you know, there's no amount of money that could take me away from my family and Missoula and Flathead Lake, and all the things I grew up loving," Hertz said.

He believes in some cases his relative youth hurt him on the campaign trail, although no one told him so directly. But Hertz and Copple both had people tell them they were excited to see younger faces, too.

"Especially some of the older women were really impressed this young woman was running and seemed excited by the energy," Copple said.

People all have lenses through which they see the world, she said. Certainly being a member of a minority group and having been mistreated because of the person she wants to spend her life has given her a greater sense of empathy. Copple said she hopes it will make her a good listener on the council, too.

"I empathize when people feel like they're not being heard, or that their voice doesn't matter," Copple said.

Her high-octane campaign raised many voices in Ward 4, with a turnout of 59.1 percent, higher than any other ward. Copple said her opponent's stance against the equality ordinance - a measure protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity - motivated many voters.

"For young people, it's an untenable position to hold in Missoula, Montana," Copple said.

Engen, too, commented on the high turnout overall, 50.9 percent, in the relatively low-profile city election: "I think it's great that we had the turnout we had, folks really I think taking advantage of the franchise and participating. That's really what we want."

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

Get News Alerts delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0