Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula City Council debated and then selected an applicant to fill a vacant seat representing Ward 2 on Monday night, and the process ran much smoother than last month's vote to appoint a new mayor.

After an hour of discussion, Sierra Farmer emerged as the top nominee, and it only required four rounds of voting as opposed to the 22 rounds required for the mayoral selection, which also required a recess and a back-alley deal.

“She brings to the table a lot of tools we'll be needing in the years ahead,” said Mirtha Becerra, the only Ward 2 council member and who recommended Farmer for the seat. “She's from an area of Ward 2 that would benefit from having someone from that area. A land-use perspective is one of the reasons I've nominated her.”

The Ward 2 seat was vacated last month by Jordan Hess, who now serves as the city's mayor. Members of public lobbied for their preferred candidate and all five nominees were advanced for voting.

All five candidates also received a few votes in nearly each round, though Farmer and Jack Rowan emerged as early favorites. All council members said the choice was difficult and each nominee brought unique qualities to the job.

“No one can really fill anyone's shoes,” said Ward 5 council member Stacie Anderson. “The best you can do is follow in their footsteps. She has a credible ward mate in Mrs. Becerra. When we talk about a representative Democracy, she represents a lived experience no one around this table has no idea of. That's a huge asset to Missoula.”

Farmer's application suggests she's a 13-year resident of Ward 2 and a 37-year resident of Missoula County. That's far longer than several other candidates, who could count their residency on one hand.

Farmer currently serves as the Trust Lands program manager for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. She was born in Missoula, has children and described herself as a strategic planner.

“As Missoula grows at a rapid rate, I don't want to look back and wish I had done more to ensure our growth was strategic and purposeful,” Farmer wrote in her application. “As major industries, such as agriculture and timer have declined in Missoula, we will need to look to other industries, such as the growing tourism sector, to bridge the gap.”

Most council members praised Farmer's nomination, even if they didn't vote for her. The sitting Ward 2 council member Becerra was selected in 2017 under a similar process and has since won reelection.

“Everyone was super qualified and brought different things to the table,” said council member Kristen Jordan, who didn't vote for Farmer. “I look forward to sitting next to you, Mrs. Farmer, and starting to work with you.”

Carlino, who also didn't vote for Farmer, added, “That was probably the toughest vote I had to do on council. Congratulations to Mrs. Farmer for getting the council seat.”

Missoula council nominates all six Ward 2 applicants for Wednesday interview (