Heide Arneson, City Commision

Heide Arneson is running for Bozeman City Commission in the upcoming election.

On Tuesday morning, Heide Arneson walked into a tea shop wearing an Air Force jacket and a blue and red name tag broadcasting her run for Bozeman City Commission.

“If I’m a few minutes late, it’s because I stay until my students’ questions are answered,” Arneson explained before meeting for an interview.

The adjunct professor who teaches aviation weather at Gallatin College hopes to snag one of the two Bozeman commissioner titles up for grabs. She’s competing with four other candidates.

The two seats are currently held by I-Ho Pomeroy, who is working to hold onto her spot for another term, and Chris Mehl, who is making a run for mayor. Whoever is elected will have four years on the governing body that steers Bozeman.

Arneson said she would be a voice that pushes commission decisions to fall in line with Bozeman’s strategic plan, which is still in draft. She said it’s a skill she’s learned during her decade as a School Board trustee.

“The school district has a pretty clear vision of what they want and where they’re going, but the city is not always sure,”Arneson said. “Right now each city department is headed in a slightly different direction.”

Arneson turns 57 this month. Roughly 20 years ago, she bought a house in Bozeman’s west side with her husband, Mark, and their two sons.

Before Montana, Arneson called Texas home. She served as a U.S. Air Force officer and later worked as a weather analyst.

She said the city needs to plan for continued population growth.

“Not manage growth, because we can’t shut the doors,” Arneson said.

She said that means creating affordable housing in city limits, which she added will make it easier for Bozeman businesses to fill entry-level positions.

Bozeman is already looking to support single-family units that cost $250,000 at most. Arneson said many people need options below that mark. She said commissioners need to shape policy around including condos in Bozeman’s housing affordability market and continuing to explore newer models like tiny homes.

Arneson said the city “certainly can’t create affordable housing alone,” but she said commissioners can unite organizations that could lower the cost of living in Bozeman.

“Like the school district and Montana State University, which are both interested in creating workforce housing,” she said. “The city can help begin and lead those conversations.”

Arneson said she would encourage infill around downtown. But she said she would also look for ways to use existing properties to expand housing options. To do that, she said she wants to help create incentives for homeowners to use extra space such as a basement apartment for long-term rentals.

Arneson said she also wants to see commissioners ease the burden on people paying property taxes. She said she would like to see city leaders ask lawmakers once again for Bozeman to have the right to create a resort tax aimed at tourists.

“People pay these expensive property taxes that keep going up,” Arneson said. “While (tourists) are using our infrastructure and don’t pay anything for it.”

Arneson said her years as a school trustee means she’s had several hundred hours of local government training. She said that doesn’t mean she’s 100 percent prepared to be a commissioner, “but I think I would have a leg up.”

She said her background separates her from the others vying to be a commissioner.

“I am a veteran, I am a scientist, I’m an educator,” she said. “I process by listening, gathering information and researching. Then I try to make the best decision — even if it’s not always the easiest one.”

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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