Three Community Leaders Speak Out on the State of Missoula
Every year, Missoula’s City Club hosts three community leaders to address the “State of Missoula’ from their particular perspective.
On Monday, County Commissioner Nicole ‘Cola’ Rowley, University of Montana President Seth Bodnar and Mayor John Engen addressed a full house at the Doubletree Hotel.
First up at the podium, complete with over 30 colorful slides, was Commissioner Rowley, who, speaking rapidly to get as much information into her 10 minute time limit, spoke of the many projects the county is involved in. She was particularly concerned with the effects of climate change, and pointed out successive years with the fires of 2017 and the flood of 2018 as proof.
“On the left is a photo I took at our subdivision while I was on pre-evacuation notice during the 2017 Lolo fire,” said Rowley. “It was like watching an air show as the multiple planes and helicopters flew over our front porch and douse the approaching wall of flames. I was a really phenomenal sight. My little girls were two and five at the time were both fascinated and terrified at the same time. What’s really terrifying is the world that they’re going to have to live in if we don’t do something about climate change.”
UM President Seth Bodnar spoke of the progress made during his first year at the helm of the university, and was cautiously optimistic about eventually increasing enrollment at the school.
“I want to be very clear that enrollment doesn’t turn overnight,” said Bodnar. “We’ve had smaller class after smaller class, so on an overall basis that enrollment number’s going to take us a little while to get back up. The key to look at is the trend. Will we have an overall enrollment number that is larger next year? Probably not, but we will have a larger incoming class and we will keep more of the students that we have. We have a higher persistence and enrollment rate, we’ve already seen that. We saw a two percent increase yearly in our persistence rate from fall to spring this year.”
Bodnar expressed thanks to emcee William Marcus for not having to follow the enigmatic speaker, Mayor John Engen who addressed the crowd last.
While speaking of the many areas of growth in Missoula, Engen said in a number of ways Missoula is continually being discovered.
“I like to say, we’ve been discovered,” said Engen. “There are people in this room that discovered Missoula some eighty years ago, and there are some that discovered Missoula just last week. What they discovered is a community that is resilient and enjoyable and unto itself. Those features are attractive to not only folks who have been here forever and don’t want to leave, but for folks finding a place they can call home for their families, for their children, for their businesses and for their lives.”
Following the ten minute speeches, the attendees each submitted a question to the panelists to answer.