Missoula City Council heaps praise upon peer: ‘Heidi West is the Westside’s rock star’

Ward 1 City Council member Heidi West.

With a fundraising goal nearly met for a park redevelopment, members of the Missoula City Council on Monday heaped praise upon one of their peers, calling her a champion for the Westside neighborhood.

West, who ran for City Council after a 2014 push to get the former White Pine Sash industrial site cleaned to residential standards, has also played a leading role in bringing the Westside Park closer to long-sought improvements.

“Not only does she do a phenomenal job of being on council, but she’s a true champion for her neighborhood,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “It was exciting to hear she was within a stone’s throw of meeting that fundraising goal. None of it would have happened without the cheerleading of Mrs. West.”

On Saturday, the city accepted a $1 million grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to help fund improvements to the park. West and council member Brian von Lossberg, both representing Ward 1, accepted the gift and praised the work it will help finalize.

Among other things, park improvements will include a new playground, basketball and sport courts, landscaping and pathways. The first phase of the project saw a picnic shelter and restroom open earlier this year.

The project includes a number of private and public sponsors, including Missoula resident John Giullani, whose parents settled in the Westside neighborhood as immigrants after World War II. Even now, 30% of the neighborhood’s residents fall below the federal poverty line compared to the citywide average of 19%.

While the fundraising effort has included a number of players, West has long advocated for her neighborhood as its representative on City Council. In 2014, she led the neighborhood in urging the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to clean a former Westside industrial site to residential standards.

Nearly eight years later, a multi-million dollar mixed-use development is under construction on the former White Pine property. Once completed by Ravara Development, it will include roughly 200 units of workforce housing in a variety of forms and 70 units of permanently affordable housing built upon a community land trust.

West accepted the accolades on Monday night with humility and said work on the park is just beginning.

“I played a fairly small role in this project and it wouldn’t be possible without just an amazing team,” she said. “We are really lucky to have the staff we do at the city, who are tireless advocates for our community. The front-end work is done, but the project is just starting.”