HELENA — When Helena residents vote in municipal elections this fall, they won’t only be selecting a mayor and city commissioners – they’ll potentially also be choosing members of the Helena Citizens’ Council. With just a week left before the close of candidate filing, council leaders are hoping more people will put their names forward.
“Helena – like many other larger cities here, especially in western Montana – we’re growing and changing, and there’s been a lot of interest in local government and local politics,” said Dylan Klapmeier, who chairs the HCC. “If people don’t want to commit to running for city commission – because that’s a big commitment – they can get involved with the HCC and still make recommendations to the city commission.”
The Helena Citizens’ Council consists of 28 members – four representing each of seven neighborhood districts across the city. It is established in the city charter and tasked with making recommendations on the city budget and development.
HCC members serve two-year terms. During every city election, voters in each of the seven districts are able to choose up to four candidates for the council. However, in most recent elections, four or fewer candidates filed to run in nearly all districts – meaning voters haven’t really had a choice.
As of Tuesday morning, two districts – #2 and #7 in the city’s south and southeast sides – had four declared candidates. In four other districts, only one person had filed to run so far. In District #3, on the west side, no one had joined the race.
The deadline to file as a candidate is 5 p.m. next Monday, June 21.
If not enough candidates run to fill all of the seats on the HCC, the other members will be able to appoint members. However, Klapmeier would rather have people run for the position, saying he believes those who file as candidates will be more committed, and that having HCC races on the city ballot will bring attention to the work the council does.
The HCC generally meets once a month, in the evening on the fourth Wednesday of each month. In addition to the budget, Klapmeier says they have held discussions on everything from e-bike policies to streetlights to the city’s policy on culling deer populations. He said joining the council would be an easy way for
“If you want to know more about what the city is doing, what your city commission is doing, what your city manager is doing, it’s a good way to get information, but then it’s also a good way to take that information and then make recommendations to them,” he said.
You can find more information on the Helena Citizens’ Council at their website.
There is no filing fee to run for an HCC position – officially called “City of Helena Neighborhood Council” on the ballot. You must be 18 years old, a registered voter and a resident of the district you’re running in. If you’re interested in filing for HCC, you can find out how at the Lewis and Clark County Elections website.