Sixteen candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for a seat in each of Missoula’s six City Council wards, with mail-in primary ballots due by Sept. 10.
Four of the wards have three candidates, and the City Council voted to hold primaries in those wards on Sept. 10 before the Nov. 5 general election. Each ward has two representatives with staggered four-year terms. The job pays $15,478 annually, and includes city health insurance.
Two current council members — John DiBari and Michelle Cares — decided against running for re-election.
The candidates were asked for a brief biography, the top two reasons they are running for office, and the reason they are the best person for the position. We will run each response by ward so our readers can compare the candidates side by side. Their responses are in their own words, and they have been edited for Associated Press style and length.
Today, we bring you Ward 3, which generally includes south-central Missoula.
Dakota Hileman: I am a 19-year-old college student at the University of Montana who is the UM College Democrats president. I enjoy walking around Missoula to check out the new developments in our city and examining how they will impact all of us. I’m passionate about the activism I do in my spare time on the issues of climate change and social justice, and I generally enjoy just mingling with fellow Missoulians that I have never met before and learning about the things that make them happy.
What motivated me to run for City Council is simply my genuine care for others. A lot of Missoulians feel forgotten and I want to bring them to the table. In the midst of those who have been forgotten are those who demand affordable housing in Missoula. The affordable housing crisis is absolutely unacceptable and we need to fix it immediately, but in order to do that we have to stop becoming a city for mega-corporations, but rather a city for everyday Missoulians and small businesses. Therefore, if elected, I will fight for everyday Missoulians who aren’t super rich, because those are the people that truly make this beautiful city what it is.
Overall, I believe that I should be a Missoula council member because I will fight vigorously for those who have been forgotten, I will amplify their voices and make sure that they are heard loud and clear. They say “enough is enough” when it comes to making this city more and more unaffordable as the days go by. Missoula needs a bold champion for those who are fed up and want progressive change in our city. I am prepared to be that champion.
Drew Iverson: I am a Montana native with a passion for community service.
I want to serve the Missoulians of Ward 3 as a fiscal conservative who will fight the good fight against wasteful spending and higher taxes. I see a lack of political and economic diversity in the current City Council that has led to a culture of toxic partisanship, a tax-and-spend agenda that has shown time and time again a lack of care for struggling Missoulians.
If elected to represent Ward 3, I will work to balance the city budget, lower taxes, and cut spending for a stronger Missoula by bringing people together to bridge the gaps of policy-making and effectiveness because we are stronger together when we work together.
Gwen Jones: I was born and raised in the University District of Missoula, and my husband and I have raised our three children here since 2004. I attended Middlebury College and double majored in political science and French, and received my JD from University of Colorado School of Law. I currently practice law part-time, writing appeals when my husband, who is a self-employed attorney, has too many files on his desk. I have served on City Council since January of 2016, was elected vice president of the council in January of 2018, and am also the chair of the Parks and Conservation Committee.
I would use one word to describe my goals for a second term: sustainability. This is a concept we need to apply on so many levels, in order to maintain our wonderful quality of life in our rapidly growing community. To be cryptic, we need sustainability in financing the services across the board that the city provides, and we need sustainability in our local government tax structure. The Montana state laws, which dictate how we raise revenue, are archaic and obsolete, and effectively make our property taxes regressive, instead of allowing us to diversify our tax revenue from other sources such as tourism.
I have invested close to four years learning a huge amount about our city departments and city budget, as well as state and municipal laws that impact and frame our City Council decisions. I have also spent much time building relationships and researching issues, and can honestly say that it took several years before I even felt I could be effective as a city councilor. Accordingly, Ward 3 currently has someone in office who is an effective councilor, has proven she can pass multiple pieces of legislation, and is respected by others in local government. That is why I am the best candidate for this position.