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Municipal elections: Collins reelected, Feaver, Reed lead in Helena, Harris wins in E. Helena

Election worker
Posted at 8:54 PM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 13:27:29-04

HELENA — (UPDATE, 12:09 a.m.) Helena residents have voted for continuity in city leadership.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins has secured a second four-year term, defeating challenger Sonda Gaub. According to the last Election Night results from the Lewis and Clark County Elections Office, Collins led Gaub 7,182 votes to 3,328.

Collins, first elected in 2017, had pointed to the work the city had done on issues like public safety funding, street improvements and affordable housing, and he asked voters for a chance to continue that work.

“I want to thank the Helena community for entrusting me to serve them for another four years,” Collins told MTN Tuesday. “I applaud my opponent for getting in the race and giving me a run.”

Collins said he was pleased to see so many voters turned out.

In the race for two open seats on the Helena City Commission, the apparent winners were Eric Feaver and Melinda Reed. After the Election Night count was completed, Feaver led with 6,115 votes. Reed had 5,617, just ahead of Troy McGee with 5,425. Steve Allen received 2,411 votes.

Election officials believe the only remaining votes to be counted are about 40 provisional ballots, which will be tallied next Monday.

Feaver has been a prominent Montana labor leader, most recently as president of the state’s largest union, the Montana Federation of Public Employees. He called for more action on affordable housing and promised to be an energetic commissioner who’d get things done.

Reed was the former executive director of the Friendship Center and Helena’s interim city manager for several months last year. She said her experience made her ready for the position, and she promised to be a voice for working parents.

There will be a change at the top in East Helena. In the city’s mayoral race, City Councilman Kelly Harris defeated two-term incumbent James Schell, 262 votes to 207. A third candidate, Lori Erickson, had dropped out and endorsed Harris. She received 49 votes.

Harris had said East Helena needed new leadership, particularly after the release of a report accusing the city’s former police chief of improper behavior and city leaders of not providing sufficient oversight. He told MTN Tuesday was “one of the best nights of my life so far.”

“I can’t wait until January to put boots on the ground and get to work,” he said.

Harris said Schell called him Tuesday to congratulate him on his victory. He said everyone in the race entered because they care about East Helena, and he hopes they can find ways to work together.

With provisional ballots yet to be counted, 11,446 votes have been tallied from Helena and East Helena, out of 23,785 registered voters in those cities. That means voter turnout will be 48% – higher than the 2019 election and comparable to the last mayoral election in 2017.

This was the first time since 2011 that no county or school measures were placed on the municipal election ballot, so only voters within city limits were able to vote.

This was also the first municipal election conducted under House Bill 176, a new state law that eliminated Election Day voter registration. Lewis and Clark County elections officials say they did have a few people who came to the office Tuesday to register and were not able to vote in this election.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted at 8:54 p.m. It includes updated results and additional statements from candidates. The original article is below.


It appears Helena residents have voted for continuity in city leadership.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins has secured a second four-year term. With initial results in, he led Sonda Gaub 6,623 votes to 3,064. Collins, first elected in 2017, had pointed to the work the city had done on issues like public safety funding, street improvements and affordable housing, and he asked voters for a chance to continue that work.

“I want to thank the Helena community for entrusting me to serve them for another four years,” Collins told MTN Tuesday. “I applaud my opponent for getting in the race and giving me a run.”

Collins also said he was pleased to see so many voters turn out.

Early results showed three candidates in a close race for two open seats on the Helena City Commission. Eric Feaver led with 5,678 votes, followed by Melinda Reed with 5,153 and Troy McGee with 5,061. The fourth candidate, Steve Allen, had 2,177 votes.

Feaver has been a prominent Montana labor leader, most recently as president of the state’s largest union, the Montana Federation of Public Employees. He called for more action on affordable housing and promised to be an energetic commissioner who’d get things done.

Reed was the former executive director of the Friendship Center and Helena’s interim city manager for several months last year. She said her experience made her ready for the position, and she promised to be a voice for working parents.

McGee, who spent 23 years as Helena’s police chief and twice was interim city manager, touted his understanding of how the city worked. He vowed to push for more transparency and ensure public input on big decisions.

In East Helena, it appears there will be a change at the top. City Councilman Kelly Harris led two-term incumbent Mayor James Schell, 234 votes to 164. A third candidate, Lori Erickson, had dropped out and endorsed Harris.

Harris had said East Helena needed new leadership, particularly after the release of a report accusing the city’s former police chief of improper behavior and city leaders of not providing sufficient oversight.

Election officials have processed 10,514 votes from Helena and East Helena, out of 23,785 registered voters in those cities. That means voter turnout will be at least 44% – comparable to previous municipal elections. Officials say it’s likely at least 600 more votes will be counted on Election Night.

This was the first time since 2011 that no county or school measures were placed on the municipal election ballot, so only voters within city limits were able to vote.

This was also the first municipal election conducted under House Bill 176, a new state law that eliminated Election Day voter registration. Lewis and Clark County elections officials say they did have a few people who came to the office Tuesday to register and were not able to vote in this election.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from incumbent Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.