By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
A day after her challenger secured a key endorsement, Missoula County Commission Stacy Rye announced her own list of endorsements on Friday while presenting herself as “a catalyst for change.”
Since taking her seat as a commissioner last August, Rye said she has voted on difficult issues while her challenger, Dave Strohmaier, has not.
“I’ve had to vote on these things for the past six months, so I don’t get a waver,” Rye said. “We’ve had to cast some really tough votes, and (Strohmaier) has not.”
Among the difficult votes, Rye named issues surrounding the Missoula County Fairgrounds and the controversial agricultural policies in the county’s subdivision regulations.
Generally, the three commissioners vote unanimously on most issues, though on occasion Rye has served as a dissenting vote.
“I’ve made it clear from the beginning that I’m not interested in the status quo,” Rye said. “I’m an independent thinker and I want to make sure Missoula County understands the pressures facing local businesses, and that our success depends on their success.”
Rye was appointed to the commission last August by incumbent commissioners Jean Curtiss and Cola Rowley after former commissioner Bill Carey announced his retirement.
But earlier this week, Curtiss said she was endorsing Strohmaier, saying she preferred his leadership style over that of Rye’s. Rye said she was undeterred by the announcement and welcomed Strohmaier to the race. She added that Curtiss’ endorsement would not affect the function of the commission.
“We’ll continue to work side by side in a professional manner,” Rye said. “I respect (Strohmaier’s) right to file. But it should be noted that I was chosen after a pretty difficult and extensive interview process.”
Rye said her time working with United Way and local businesses helped shape her qualifications to serve as commissioner. If reelected, she said, she’d continue to work on openness and transparency in county government, and being “more responsive” to citizens.
Rye added that several difficult issues sill face the county, from the future of the South Avenue bridge to land use, including that on the urban fringe. She also sees an opportunity to collaborate more closely with other local entities.
“There’s plenty of things the county can be doing in addition to the services it provides,” Rye said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for partnering with the city and other entities to do some new things with the county, like early childhood education and resolving homelessness.”
Earlier this week, Strohmaier said conservation, infrastructure and development topped the list of issues he’d like to address if elected to the position. He said the stewardship of natural resources within the county don’t get enough discussion.
“Along those lines, I believe one of the biggest issues facing our time is climate change and doing everything around the county that we can to reduce our carbon footprint,” Strohmaier said. “We need to do what we can to preserve our agricultural heritage in the county. Food security and agricultural soils are incredibly important to the future.”
Rye said she has earned endorsements from several state legislators, along with Missoula Mayor John Engen and Missoula City Council members Marilyn Marler, Emily Bentley, Gwen Jones, Julie Armstrong and Jon Wilkins.
Both Rye and Strohmaier have served on the Missoula City Council.