Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With the start of a new year and a newly elected mayor in place, members of the Missoula City Council on Monday appointed a new president and vice president while praising past leaders for navigating a number of challenges over the last few years.

Former president Gwen Jones nominated Amber Sherrill to the post while former vice president Stacie Anderson nominated Mirtha Becerra to take her place. Both nominations were approved on a unanimous vote.

“I'm thrilled to nominate council member Amber Sherrill,” said Jones. “She is thorough, she's a hard worker, she shows up and does her homework, she asks good questions and has carefully thought-out comments,” said Jones. “At this juncture, it's the right thing to have Mrs. Sherrill serve as president.”

Sherrill, the former executive director of the Five Valleys Land Trust, accepted the nomination. Several other council members praised her work while thanking Jones for guiding the ship over the last few years.

Those years were marked by a collision of challenges unseen by other City Councils. Among them, the city faced – and continues to face – budgetary challenges resulting in part from the pandemic and the many services it launched with one-time federal funding that now sit largely unfunded and face uncertain futures.

Recent years also saw the passing of Missoula's longest-serving mayor John Engen. During that stretch, Jones served as interim mayor, helped navigate the appointment of another interim mayor, and filled a number of City Council seats left vacant as Missoula adjusted to a new political chapter.

“I'm happy to support my Ward 4 partner (Amber Sherrill) for council president,” said council member Mike Nugent. “But I want to thank president Jones for serving as council president in probably what has been the toughest stretch the city has ever had. She did it very well and handled it with grace. I and many other appreciated it.”

City council Vice President Mirtha Becerra (right).
City council Vice President Mirtha Becerra (right).

Most held similar praise for Stacie Anderson, who served with Jones as vice president during the same tenuous stretch. Anderson nominated Mirtha Becerra to take her place, and Becerra accepted the post.

“It's been my pleasure to serve as vice president,” said Anderson. “I'm excited to pass the baton to Mrs. Becerra. She's a wonderful human being and brings a really interesting perspective for having been a staff member for the city. She's willing to put in the hard work, because it's not an easy road.”

While Sherrill acknowledged that she and Becerra don't always vote in lockstep, together they'd make a strong team. While Sherrill headed Five Valleys before stepping into her council role, Becerra worked as a city planner.

“I feel like this is a great combination,” said Sherrill. “If you look back at some of our meetings, sometimes we really disagree, which I think is great, but we're able to disagree and move on. (Becerra) has been a good, solid base on this council and is thoughtful about the decisions she makes.”

Of the council's 12 members, eight are women and for the second season, they will run the council along with Missoula's female mayor – only the second woman to head the city since its founding.