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Four Bozeman city commissioners are tasked with finding a fifth to replace Commissioner Michael Wallner, who has resigned saying the demands of the office were spreading him too thin.

Wallner’s departure is unfortunate. He provided the commission with a bit of diversity. At 33 years of age, he brought the needed perspective of youth to the office. As commissioners consider applicants for the post they should keep that in mind.

For decades, nearly all city commissioners have been middle age or older, homeowners and financially secure. They may have been self-selected from those demographics because they had the time and the wherewithal to run for office and serve on the citizen commission.

But Bozeman has changed. Many newcomers, whether coming here for school or quality of life, are from a less privileged class. They struggle to find housing and increase their wealth in challenging housing and job markets. But they are no less committed to improving their community. And they deserve a voice in setting city policy. An ambitious, qualified young person who rents their living space could bring a needed perspective to the commission.

Just as importantly, those who apply for the job should take heed of Wallner’s reasons for resigning. The city’s charter provides for a citizen commission whose members serve part time. But as any commissioner, past or present, can tell you, it has become much more than that. In addition to lengthy weekly meetings that can go late into the night, commissioners are tasked with meeting with the many citizen advisory committees that meet regularly. And commissioners are often called upon to meet with local civic groups and answer questions about city policies. In short, it’s more than a part-time job.

Bozeman is a rapidly growing community — the fastest growing micropolitan area in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That poses big challenges, from an affordable housing crisis to ensuring local infrastructure — streets, water and sewer lines, law enforcement and fire services — are adequate to serve a growing population.

The commissioners took some guff last year when it filled a vacant seat with Jennifer Madgic, who had long been involved in city and county land-use planning. She brings important experience to the commission. This time around, however, commissioners should at least consider choosing a candidate who will bring some needed diversity to the office.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.