Outgoing members of the Missoula City Council got many thanks Monday, and a couple of them even got awards.
For their leadership in opposing excess in government spending and on other fronts, Councilwomen Lyn Hellegaard and Renee Mitchell shared the honor of being named "Patriot of the Year" by the Missoula Patriots Tea Party.
"They are truly statespersons and not politicians," said chairwoman Gloria Roark, who praised the councilors' dedication to the U.S. Constitution, business and "creating a family-friendly atmosphere."
Hellegaard, Mitchell and Councilwoman Pam Walzer lost re-election bids in November, and Councilwoman Stacy Rye opted against seeking a third four-year term (see related story on Rye). Monday was their last meeting as councilors, at least this time around, and they heard gratitude from the public and offered thanks to their constituents.
Joe Gorsh said he appreciated Mitchell and Hellegaard for taking telephone calls, "listening to our gripes," being patient with people who told them what to do, and then making the hard decisions on their own.
"You did a heckuva job. We as a whole appreciate what you have done for us," Gorsh said.
For their willingness to paddle upstream and remain independent of Mayor John Engen's agenda, Will Snodgrass also commended Hellegaard and Mitchell: "Above all, Lyn and Renee appear to be two of the most honest people on this council, and I applaud you for that."
In turn, they and the other outgoing councilors thanked the community for the privilege to serve. Mitchell, who never considered herself a politician, said she always made her decisions with fiscal accountability and transparency in mind.
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The Ward 5 councilor said it was clear to her the most recent election was less about representing voters than it was about getting along. Even though at times she felt like she was waving a small flag to try to stop a herd of stampeding buffalo, she said it was her privilege to serve.
"I'm very grateful to have had this experience. I'm appreciative of the voters who chose to trust me in local city government," Mitchell said.
Hellegaard, of Ward 4, said her experience on the council was an education, and she plans to continue to help the citizens of Missoula using the lessons she learned in her term: "It's certainly a pleasure, and I will remember it for a very long time."
Walzer, too, promised to continue her work. The Ward 2 councilor plans to volunteer as much as she can and is open to opportunities that may come her way. She met amazing people, and Walzer said she won't abandon them: "I think I've done well for the city in general. I take a lot away from it and promise to continue to serve."
In other business, the council voted 8-3 to approve a phasing plan for the Stonybrook development of 43 lots on the northwest corner of South Third Street West and Tower Street. The area flooded, and Councilman Bob Jaffe said the new design accounts for a 500-year flood, and each phase must be reviewed against any new flood data.