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 1, which generally covers northeast Missoula.
Amber Shaffer: Growing up as part of a large Northside family, my grandmother taught me from a young age the importance of caring for your neighborhood and being involved in local politics. I attended Hellgate High School and later studied history at the University of Montana. At UM I was vice president and president in the Native American Student Association. My husband and I have two wonderful boys.
The citizens of Missoula deserve a council committed to making more fiscally responsible decisions. With ever-increasing tax burdens and an understaffed police force, it is time to buckle down on unnecessary spending and focus on addressing the quality of life issues (parking, urban camping, and crime) throughout our ward.
I would serve our ward with solid judgement and compassion. I bring with me an attention to detail, a genuine concern for the neighborhoods of our ward, and an eagerness to create a better Missoula for generations to come.
Elizabeth Weaver: I am the SNAP Outreach Coordinator at the Montana Food Bank Network Inc. I hold a B.A. in communications and political science from Houghton College and a M.A. in social justice in intercultural relations from SIT Graduate Institute. I have spent my professional career in the nonprofit sector working with organizations on human rights, advocacy, legal aid, and food access. I served four years on the board of directors for the Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project and currently sit on Missoula’s Food Access Committee.
I am running for City Council because I care about Missoula’s growth, and making sure we grow together — across all income brackets — as a city. With growth comes need, particularly around infrastructure and housing. I will provide a much-needed skill set to the discussions on how we plan, prepare, and implement necessary upgrades and new projects. Missoula is at its best when we all succeed and every resident has access to the opportunities that make our city such an incredible place to live.
I am the best candidate for the position because I bring an underrepresented voice to the table. As a single, below-median income household that rents, I have a perspective shared by 41% of Missoulians, but a voice not currently at the table. As a downtown resident, I also represent an area with growing housing and infrastructure needs. I would love to bring that diversity of lived experience to City Council by representing Ward 1.
Heidi West: My husband, Adam, and our two kids live in Missoula's Northside neighborhood. I work as a community organizer for the North-Missoula Community Development Corporation, where I also develop permanently affordable housing. I came to city politics as a by-product of neighborhood grassroots activism, calling for a residential level cleanup of the former White Pine Sash State Superfund Site. I currently represent Ward 1 and am running for a second term on the Missoula City Council.
For a significant amount time that my family has lived in Missoula, our household was classified as low-income, and I am intimately familiar with many of the challenges, as well as the benefits of choosing this community to be our home. It was the lack of representation of this lived experience that finalized my decision to run for office in 2015. I am dedicated to striving for equity and access to a clean environment, safe housing, and a healthy lifestyle for all of Missoula’s residents.
I am creative, passionate, and strive to create connections that can address problems with the goal of creating a better Missoula for all current and future citizens.