By Martin Kidston
Raising their right hands, Missoula County’s three newest elected officials took the oath of office on Thursday, swearing to defend the U.S. Constitution, along with that of Montana, and to uphold the duties of their office with fidelity.
Before a packed room at the Missoula County Courthouse annex, incumbent commissioners Jean Curtiss and Cola Rowley welcomed Clerk of Court Shirley Faust, Justice of the Peace Landee Holloway and incoming Commissioner Dave Strohmaier to their positions.
While Faust was elected to her third term as clerk of court, Strohmaier represents the county’s newest employee after he edged Stacy Rye in the Democratic primary. Rye had been appointed as interim commissioner in August 2015 to replace Bill Carey, who retired after 17 years.
“The first thing I’ll do is find my office, start learning names and doing what I can to hear what staff has to say and what the community has been telling me over the last few months, and to bring that to fruition,” Strohmaier said after the ceremony. “More than anything, folks want to know they’re heard and that they’re a part of the process.”
Strohmaier formerly served on the Missoula City Council. For the past few years, he has worked as an historian with Historical Research Associates and is a former firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
While Missoula County is home to the state’s second largest city, Strohmaier said he plans to listen closely to the county’s rural voice. He believes the county as a whole is poised for success, and will see a bright future in the 21st century.
During his campaign, Strohmaier ran on a platform of land stewardship, acknowledging climate change as one of the greatest moral issues facing our times. He pledged to move the county toward a goal of becoming carbon neutral.
Planning and economic development also topped his campaign list.
“One of the big things we’re embarking on accomplishing is updating the zoning regulations for the county,” he said. “That’s a huge piece of addressing growth and trying to get ahead of the curve.”
Strohmaier, who begins work next week, will also have a hand in selecting a new director of the Missoula County Fairgrounds. The former director, Todd Garrett, retired for personal reasons in July.
“Rumor has it, one of the first things I’ll be doing right out of the shoot next week is interviewing someone for the fair director,” Strohmaier said. “The Missoula County Fair has been a huge concern, I think, for many folks in the county. I would love to see us get someone in place that can make this be a showcase of the county, among other things.”
Holloway also begins her role as Justice of the Peace next week, though she’s not new to the job. Commissioners appointed her in June to fill an interim position after former Judge Karen Orzech announced her retirement.
Holloway pledged to move forward with an evidence-based DUI court.
“There’s a current DUI court that Judge Orzek had started, and I’m continuing that, though there are some things to make it more evidence based,” said Holloway. “We’ve made some changes with the way we handle warrants and with regards to some incarceration, and being creative with how we still hold people accountable in ways that don’t always cost the taxpayers more money.”
Holloway served on the steering committee for the Jail Diversion Master Plan. The plan was approved in November, though not without controversy. The 121-page report dives deep into local and national statistics, best practices and alternatives to incarceration, including a greater emphasis on intervention.
“As the judiciary, I have the autonomy to run the court the way I see fit and still hold people accountable, but community safety is always a focus,” said Holloway. “A lot of the things in the Jail Diversion Master Plan are really resources and tools a judge can use. I do support a lot of the proposals in there.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org