Although filing for the Nov. 5 Missoula City Council elections doesn’t begin until Thursday, candidates already are staking claims.
At least one of the six incumbents — Michelle Cares, who represents Ward 6 — is declining to seek a second term. Council members Mirtha Becerra in Ward 2, Gwen Jones in Ward 3, and John DiBari in Ward 4 all are running; Heidi West in Ward 1 and Julie Armstrong in Ward 5 didn’t return telephone calls seeking a comment.
Cares said that between her family and her job, she didn’t feel she could fulfill all the duties necessary for the council position.
“I’m just a little tired of feeling like I’m under-performing,” Cares said on Tuesday. “I feel like I could do a lot more for the citizens of Missoula, but I’m tapped out and don’t like feeling like that. But I’ve enjoyed my service and like the work, and there’s still a lot to be done.”
Nick Shontz announced on a Facebook page that he’s running to replace Cares, who is the treasurer of his campaign. The site notes that he owns a web and marketing business after working for a decade in the IT department at the University of Montana. He lists access to green spaces and “reliable connectivity and infrastructure to handle our growing population” as part of his campaign platform.
In Ward 2, Becerra is running for her first full term after being appointed to the council in November 2017. She is a professional land use and transportation planner, and said that as Missoula’s population grows, and the city grows geographically, she’d like to put those skills to work for area residents.
“I’ve only been on the council for about one-and-a-half years; it’s been a huge learning curve and I have enough knowledge now to launch into more effective work,” Becerra said. She added that along with the city’s growth, she is interested in public health and safety issues, and reaching out to people in the newly annexed Canyon Creek Village area to learn more about their needs.
In Ward 3, Jones said she is excited to seek a second term. Jones, who is an attorney, said she’s not sure what her campaign issues will be just yet. But two items that concern her are affordable housing and the urban forest, which consists of the trees on city-owned property.
“Affordable housing is a bigger problem than it was four years ago,” Jones said. “And the urban forest … we have a lot of old trees, like in Missoula’s University District, that are aging out and we can’t get enough resources to replant them. They’re important for mental health and the heat islands we create with all of the asphalt.”
Ward 4’s DiBari was traveling Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for an interview, but in a text message he said he’s seeking a second term. DiBari is a small business owner who also holds a Ph.D. in landscape ecology.
The deadline for filing for the city council is 5 p.m. June 17. The filing fee is $154.78, which is 1% of the total annual salary of $15,478.