By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
Former Missoula City Council member Dave Strohmaier plans to challenge incumbent Missoula County Commissioner Stacy Rye in June for a seat on the commission.
Strohmaier, who currently serves as a project manager with Historical Research Associates, said Thursday he will file to run as a Democrat on Friday morning with sitting Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss at his side.
“Commissioner Curtiss will be there with me,” Strohmaier said. “I also have the endorsement of County Auditor Barbara Berens.”
Last August and after several rounds of interviews and vetting, Curtiss and Commissioner Cola Rowley appointed Rye to the commission to replace Bill Carey, who retired.
Rye said Thursday she was aware of Strohmaier’s intent to run. However, she said, she was not aware that Curtiss planned to endorse him.
“If I had a choice, I don’t think (Rye’s) leadership style is right for Missoula County,” Curtiss said. “(Strohmaier) is collaborative, he’s respectful and he understands county government. He has a proven ability to look at tough issues and look at different points of view.”
Strohmaier said conservation, infrastructure and development stand among the issues topping his list. 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,” he 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.”
In January, commissioners panned a controversial section of the county’s subdivision regulations designed to protect agricultural land from development. At the time, they said, the proposal would have penalized the county’s larger land holders while doing little to preserve smaller ag operations near the urban fringe.
Rye voted with Curtiss and Rowley to remove the section from the regulations. However, she opposed Curtiss and Rowley by voting to support a return of horse racing to the Missoula County Fairgrounds.
Rye said she would discuss her platform for reelection in the days to come. Both Rye and Strohmaier served on the Missoula City Council.
“We need to make sure that we remember the city of Missoula is within Missoula County,” Strohmaier said. “We need to break down the divide of urban and rural, and recognize that we need to do good county-wide planing in land use and economic development that ties together all the county’s residents, and gets around this pitting one area against the other.”
When Carey’s seat came open last year, Curtiss said Rye’s experience in local government and appreciation for the challenges facing the county’s agricultural policy made her the best choice among the applicants. While Strohmaier had considered vying for the open seat at the time, he chose not to.
“It’s a difficult decision, but I finally had to come down with what I felt was the best leadership for Missoula County,” Curtiss said of her endorsement. “I don’t think primaries are bad. I had two primaries. I think it helps you refine your message and think about the way you do the job.”