Helena city election candidates meet in pair of public forums

Helena Candidate Forum
Posted at 6:13 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 20:53:18-04

HELENA — Ballots in Helena’s municipal elections are going out to voters Wednesday, Oct. 13. As the city election campaign heats up, the six people running for mayor and city commission met this week in a pair of candidate forums.

On Tuesday, candidates participated in an online forum, organized by YWCA Helena, with support from Helena Area Habitat for Humanity, ACLU of Montana, the Friendship Center and Good Samaritan Ministries. They answered questions on issues like affordable housing, homelessness, poverty and public involvement in city government.

On Thursday evening, the League of Women Voters of the Helena Area held an in-person forum at the Helena Avenue Theatre, with a limited audience due to social distancing. Questions touched on some of the same topics, as well as conservation policy, taxes and recent state actions that limit the city’s powers.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins is running for a second four-year term. He says there have been successes on issues like housing and infrastructure, but there’s more work he wants to do.

“I think we’ve done a pretty decent job, but we need to continue what we’ve started,” he said Thursday.

Collins is facing a challenge from Sonda Gaub, a political newcomer who owns a small tutoring business. She has called for supporting local businesses and respecting the public’s input.

“The reason I’m running for mayor is to bring back communication, back into our community and our county,” she said.

Four candidates are running for two open city commission seats:

  • Steve Allen is a general contractor, land developer and member of the Helena Citizens’ Council. He was unable to take part in the Thursday forum for health reasons.
  • Eric Feaver is now retired, after decades leading Montana’s teachers’ union, MEA-MFT, and its successor, the Montana Federation of Public Employees.
  • Troy McGee spent 40 years serving with the Helena Police Department, including 23 years as police chief.
  • Melinda Reed previously led Helena’s Friendship Center and spent several months as interim city manager last year.

Helena resident Bill Roberts attended the LWV forum, and says he watched the online event as well.

“I wanted to find out what made them tick, why they wanted to run, what their ideas were for moving the city forward,” he said. “The city kind of grows on you, and I can’t think of any place I’d rather live than Helena, and I want to see it work, I want to see things work well.”

You can find video of the full forums online here and here.

MTN has been interviewing the candidates facing off in Helena and East Helena’s city elections. Starting on Monday, we will give you a full introduction to the candidates.