Citing changing times, the Missoula City Council on Monday rescinded a 2013 ordinance requiring department heads to live within the city limits.
Members of the previous council suggested that the residency requirement ensured “that the people that create and enforce the policy actually live under that city policy.”
But times have changed and the policy isn’t working as intended.
“Now that we’ve had a few years for it to unfold and see how it worked in application, the consensus is that it didn’t go in the direction council intended a few years ago,” said council member Gwen Jones. “It was time to not only revisit it, but consider revoking it.”
Requiring city leaders to live within the city limits was initially seen as a way to ensure they were invested in the city, and ensure those leaders live under the rules and regulations adopted by the city.
But members of today’s council contend that they are the policy making body, not the department heads. On a human resource level, the policy also has created problems around the recruitment of otherwise qualified employees.
In one example cited by human resources last month, two equally qualified candidates are in line for a city leadership position. But one lives outside the city, making them ineligible for the job. That created concerns around equity and fairness.
“In order to have good department heads and good employees, it’s not where they live but who you hire, how you manage them and the tools you give them,” said Jones.
At least in recent history, the City Council has rarely reversed the work of past councils. But today’s council has suggested that the previous council had no “justifiable reasoning” for adopting the ordinance.
No other major Montana city has residency requirements for top-level positions. Those that did have since rescinded them.
Missoula Mayor John Engen said the city already has policies in place to ensure its executives are invested in the city they represent.
“We do have a strategy to ensure that folks who need to respond quickly to City Hall or to an emergent challenge in the community, we have a process and policy for that. We’re just tying up a few lose ends,” he said.