Jennifer Madgic

Jennifer Madgic

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City commissioners have voted to appoint Jennifer Madgic to the vacant position on the Bozeman City Commission.

Madgic, who is on the Bozeman Planning Board, was chosen from 20 candidates who applied to fill the spot left open after former Mayor Chris Mehl resigned last month. Then Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus rose to the mayoral position, leaving both the deputy mayor and a commission position open. Also on Wednesday, Andrus and commissioners I-Ho Pomeroy and Michael Wallner voted to make Commissioner Terry Cunningham the new deputy mayor.

Any Bozeman resident registered to vote could apply to the position, and 20 residents sent in statements of interest. Commissioners heard public comment during Wednesday's meeting and statements from all 20 applicants before making a motion to appoint Madgic, who received a unanimous vote. 

Both Madgic and Cunningham will serve in their new positions for the rest of the term, ending in January 2022.

In her application, Madgic emphasized her experience on the planning board, which helped put together the draft Bozeman Community Plan, which will guide Bozeman’s growth for the next two decades. In her interest statement, Madgic said she supports thoughtful planning to help with an affordable housing supply, active transportation and water and energy conservation.

“I really believe that we need to be proactive, fiscally responsible, and sustainable and thoughtful as we move forward,” Madgic said during the meeting.

Madgic also worked as a regional director for Montana Democratic U.S. Sen Jon Tester, according to her interest statement, and is on the board of the Bozeman Co-op. She ran for county commission in 2014. 

Several commissioners pointed to Madgic’s planning experience as the reason she was earning their vote. Cunningham said he was looking for an applicant who had a history of service in Bozeman, leadership experience, and familiarity with the city’s operations, among other qualifications.

Wallner said he was also looking for someone with understanding of public policy, calling Madgic a “technical public policy expert.”

Pomeroy said she has worked with Madgic before, and was impressed by her kindness and her ability to be a team player.

Andrus, who herself was appointed to the city commission over a decade ago in a similar process, noted she had little experience with public service when she came on board, and faced a steep learning curve. Her position now reversed, Andrus said she was looking for an applicant with experience in government and working with other governmental bodies to help address the myriad serious issues facing the commission, from the city’s growth to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest.

The issues facing the city commission are "unprecedented," Andrus said.  

“Her application recognized and named a series of issues we are facing in the community around public health, around housing, around climate and growth as well as transitions that have occurred in our organizations,” Andrus said. “And not only does she call them out but more importantly she recognizes that the solutions to these problems are difficult and she doesn't have all the answers. But that to me says she understands she has a lot of work to be done.”

Madgic, who was sworn in immediately after the vote, said she was “honored and humbled.”

“I am so looking forward to the work,” said Madgic.

Though Madgic was the top choice for the commissioners, an overwhelming majority of speakers during public comment spoke in support of applicant Christopher Coburn, who also received well over 100 written public comments on his behalf. That far outpaced other candidates, including Madgic.

In both written and spoken public comment, many spoke to Coburn’s ability to bring the perspective of a young Black person to the commission, something he also spoke to during the meeting, referencing his frustrations finding affordable housing, anxiety over climate change and experience living through a time of increasing inequity and disparity.

Wallner and Cunningham both included Coburn in their list of top candidates, and Pomeroy also said that she has been impressed by Coburn when working with him on the Gallatin City-County Board of Health.

Andrus said she was overwhelmed by all the young people who applied, and encouraged them to stay involved.

“We know you’re interested, we know you have your heart and your intentions are in the right place and we will be reaching out to you to help us move our community forward in ways that we could not do without you and without your involvement,” Andrus said.

In a statement Thursday, Bozeman United for Racial Justice, Sunrise Gallatin and Forward Montana condemned what they called the "undemocratic appointment."

Noting the overwhelming support for other candidates during public comment, the groups said public participation was "strictly limited and ultimately disregarded," and said the commission ignored the "wants and needs of their community."

"Through their words and actions, the city commissioners told BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) that they don't belong here. They told young people that the only type of experience that matters is the kind that they themselves have had," the statement reads. "They had the nerve to applaud the young BIPOC who applied and provided public comment and then completely dismiss their voices. It is no wonder that many young people feel disempowered by the political process — we are not heard even we are impossible to ignore."

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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