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City of Helena Commission selects Shirtliff to fill open seat

Commissioner Andy Shirtliff
Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 29, 2022

HELENA — The Helena City Commission remained divided all through the monthlong process of trying to fill a vacant seat on the commission. However, in the end, they were all willing to move forward and get to work with their newly appointed colleague – Andy Shirtliff.

“It’s going to be a good experience – like I said, an incredible honor to be here,” Shirtliff said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

At a special meeting Monday night, the other commission members selected Shirtliff as their top choice to fill the seat until his death earlier this year. He was one of two final candidates the commission moved forward last week, after they were still unable to come to a consensus on their top choice. The other candidate under consideration Monday was former Helena police chief Troy McGee.

During a preliminary discussion of the two candidates Monday, Mayor Wilmot Collins and Commissioners Emily Dean and Melinda Reed favored Shirtliff, while Commissioner Sean Logan supported McGee.

Logan said he backed McGee because the city was facing immediate challenges and needed someone with strong experience. Reed said Shirtliff would be a better reflection of the will of Helena voters, as expressed in the city elections last year.

Dean said she went back and forth between the two finalists.

“I do think that, in the interest of finding middle ground, Mr. Shirtliff will likely be the best path forward,” she said.

After it was clear Shirtliff had the support to move forward, all four commission members voted to endorse his appointment. He was then immediately sworn in by Helena Municipal Court Judge Anne Peterson, and he took his seat on the commission for the final minutes of their meeting.

“I’m honored to be here. I can’t say that enough, so thank you very much to all of you,” he told his new colleagues.

Shirtliff is a business engagement specialist with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Prior to that, he has worked in a variety of positions in state and federal government and the private sector. He has also been involved in a number of local boards and volunteer efforts. He currently chairs the city of Helena’s Downtown Urban Renewal District TIF Advisory Board.

Shirtliff said his priorities include supporting small businesses, improving infrastructure, addressing the need for housing and creating an inclusive community. He said he looks forward to continuing the work his predecessor started.

“Eric Feaver left big shoes to fill and a legacy, not just to strive for, but to build off of,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good team here with the mayor and the other commissioners, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

Shirtliff will serve until the end of 2023, when an election will be held to fill the final two years of Feaver’s unexpired term. He told MTN it’s too early to say whether he’ll consider running in that election.

The commission said Monday they were impressed by the candidates who put themselves forward for this position, but they expressed frustrations with the process.

Reed said she was disappointed at the loss of an opportunity to add a woman candidate and make the commission majority female for the first time in its history. She also expressed concern about one of the candidates using “language that is outdated and not reflective of current inclusive language” regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. That was in reference to McGee, who during his interview with commissioners last week highlighted the Helena Police Department’s handling of Pride events during his time as chief and referred to people opposed to those events as being “against their lifestyle.”

Dean said she was discouraged by the tone of some comments throughout the process, which she described as “the disparagement of a number of people’s characters.” Logan echoed that, saying there had been a “whisper campaign” in public comments aimed at “tearing down” McGee’s character.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated. Original post below:


After a month-long process, Helena leaders have made their final choice on who should fill the vacant seat on the city commission – selecting Andy Shirtliff, a business engagement specialist with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

Commissioners made the decision at a special meeting Monday night. Shirtliff was set to be sworn in immediately afterward, officially taking over the seat held by Commissioner Eric Feaver until his death earlier this year.

Shirtliff was one of two final candidates the commission moved forward last week, after they were still unable to come to a consensus on their top choice. The other candidate under consideration Monday was former Helena police chief Troy McGee.

Shirtliff has worked in a variety of positions in state government, federal government and the private sector. He has also been involved in a number of local boards and volunteer efforts. He currently chairs the city of Helena’s Downtown Urban Renewal District TIF Advisory Board.

Shirtliff will serve until the end of 2023, when an election will be held to fill the final two years of Feaver’s unexpired term.