Missoula County

Missoula County Commissioners will choose among a City Council member, a ranch owner and a union organizer to replace outgoing Commissioner Nicole “Cola” Rowley.

Missoula County Democrats hosted a forum Tuesday for 11 candidates, then voted to narrow the list to city Councilor Stacie Anderson, rancher Juanita Vero and union organizer Denver Henderson for consideration by county commissioners.

The three candidates will receive questionnaires by June 7 and be publicly interviewed by Commissioners Dave Strohmaier and Josh Slotnick beginning at 9 a.m. June 11 in the Sophie Moiese Room in the county courthouse. The two commissioners are expected to announce their appointment on June 13 during their 10 a.m. public administration meeting; but they also can reject the three candidates and ask for three more from the Democrats. 

Rowley, a Democrat, who has served as county commissioner since 2015, announced last month that she would start a new job July 1 as Gallatin County's deputy county administrator.

The new commissioner will complete Rowley’s six-year term that ends on Dec. 31, 2020. All three finalists said they intend to run for the seat, which pays a starting salary of $83,990 in the 2020 election.

All the candidates live in District 1, which mainly is the southeastern portion of the county but also stretches to the northeast to encompass Greenough, where Vero operates her family's E Bar L guest ranch. Both Henderson and Anderson live within the Missoula city limits.

The Missoula Democratic Central Committee sent out questionnaires from 25 potential candidates asking about their credentials and their visions for the future. Eighteen were eligible based on residency, and the 11 candidates interviewed Tuesday had returned completed questionnaires.

Henderson serves as an organizer for SIEU 775 and is the Democratic Party representative on the Election Advisory Committee.

Anderson is the executive director of A Better Big Sky, sits on the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana board, and represents Ward 5 on the city council.

Her term ends on the first Monday in 2022, and if appointed commissioner, the City Council will choose a replacement for Anderson.

Missoulian reporter Eve Byron contributed to this story.

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