Missoula City Council member Anderson picked for national NewDEAL network

While still in her first term on the Missoula City Council, Stacie Anderson has grasped the complexities of local government, emerging as a political leader whose advocacy runs from clean energy to smart growth.

Anderson’s rise recently gained the attention of the national NewDEAL, a progressive network that mentors elected officials and helps them tackle challenging problems back home. Past participants have included Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams.

“I was sort of surprised they chose me, given that I’ve only been on council for two years and the accomplishments of the some of the other people who have been included in the program,” she said. “I think it’s an incredible learning opportunity.”

Anderson, who represents Ward 5 on the Missoula City Council, remains one of the body’s youngest members. During her tenure, she has helped to adopt the city’s new housing policy and an April resolution to kick fossil fuels in favor of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.

Such issues aren’t unique to Missoula, as other cities struggle with affordable housing and the impacts of climate change. More than 110 cities across the country have adopted clean energy goals.

“No municipality or state has enough money to do all the things they want to do,” said Anderson. “This is an opportunity for me to learn what are the best practices in other places and what’s working, and bring those ideas back to Missoula and see what pieces we can incorporate so we’re not constantly recreating the wheel.”

The NewDEAL program, or Developing Exceptional American Leaders, named just 15 elected officials from 1,500 nominees to this year’s cohort. They were chosen for their “unwavering commitment” to expanding opportunities while working to move their communities forward “in the new economy.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, and former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who co-chair the program, said that while the political world focuses on the balance of power in Washington, D.C., local and state officials have far-reaching impacts that can support a changing world through progressive values.

“Supporting the rising leaders in the NewDEAL has never been more important,” they wrote with Anderson’s appointment. “We look forward to promoting the work of council member Anderson and giving her the opportunity to learn from other leaders as she joins a network with a proven track record of governing successfully in diverse communities.”

Anderson noted recent policies adopted by the Missoula City Council, calling them bold and forward looking. They’ve include the Zero by 50 initiative, the Our Missoula Growth Policy, the clean electricity initiative, and A Place to Call Home – the city’s long-awaited housing policy.

Participating in the NewDEAL will help her bring new ideas to those local policies while sharing Missoula’s successes with other state and city leaders.

“I’m incredibly proud to call Missoula home, and think we do some really amazing things,” she said. “This is an opportunity for me to share those programs with others who are thinking about doing the same things. There really isn’t that outlet for sharing ideas at the municipal level, so this is an opportunity to broaden that outside of Montana.”

Anderson ran and won her election in 2017, outpacing challenger Cathy Deschamps by 641 votes in a race that saw less than 4,000 votes. She was part of a freshman class of council members that included Jesse Ramos, Julie Merritt and Heather Harp.

“Running a city is complicated and it takes a little while to get the various components under your belt,” she said. “I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the various components, and that I can ask better questions and provide better feedback than in my first six months to a year.”

Anderson said that gleaning best practices from the NewDEAL will help make Missoula stronger.

“I think there will be an opportunity to expand upon that, given my work within this organization,” she said. “There’s an opportunity to learn what other cities are doing and bring some of those ideas back to make our policies better, and the underlying components better.”