E-City Beat Candidate Essay
My name is Melissa Smith; I am a Montanan who was raised in Havre. I received a first-class K-12 education there (go, Blue Ponies!). I went on to receive my BA from the University of Montana at Missoula. Growing up, I spent my summers with my grandparents in the Flathead Valley. As a result, I have a deep love and respect for Montana landscapes, from the high plains to the glacier valleys.
I am running for House District 20 because I want Montanans to thrive. I have decided to run because I have been involved in community organizing for the past four decades; however, I felt 2020 was the right time for me to step up and try for a seat at the table where laws are enacted and budgets are passed. I am running as a Democrat because I work for justice: environmental, racial, social, and economic. My campaign focuses on three core issues: conservation, education, and public safety.
Montana has a vital, multi-billion-dollar outdoor industry. The preservation and conservation of our public lands is key to maintaining that industry. Furthermore, our access to Montana’s public lands is just one of the ways we Montanans maintain our health and well-being.
To help Cascade County thrive, I will advocate for the creation of more jobs for Montanans through the development of clean energy technologies. We have everything we need here to become a national leader in clean energy: water, sun, and wind, combined with Montana ingenuity. There is an excellent program at the College of Great Falls/MSU for wind turbine technicians. We can continue to train people here in Great Falls, and then retain them in our community, with more wind farms in Cascade County.
We can also increase our prosperity by ensuring that we have good quality schools for our children. I will support public pre-school programs, dual-credit classes, as well as vocational programs leading to apprenticeships for high school students.
All citizens in Cascade County must feel safe. I support our police as first responders, and am respectful of the difficult job they perform to keep our communities safe every day. But our community must also support citizens across the spectrum of experiences they have with law enforcement; it is our responsibility to ensure that all citizens receive equal treatment under the Law.
Helping all citizens feel safe in our County also includes enforcing non-discriminatory practices, and seeking restorative justice. I support these endeavors.
Finally, food security is essential to a feeling of safety in Cascade County. I will promote food security by encouraging the sale of locally-grown food products. Right now, only 10% of the food grown in Montana is consumed by Montanans. We can change that equation, and provide good paying jobs, by supporting small scale processing plants for local agricultural products in Cascade County.
As the owner of two small businesses (Renditions Music Services and Dia Desserts), I understand the challenges facing small business owners everywhere, including those in Cascade County. I will support legislation to help small businesses thrive here.
Montana is at a crossroads. The pandemic has exposed many fractures in the ways we always thought our institutions should work: our government, our social safety net, our food security, our housing, and our educational system, to name just a few. I stand ready to work with all who would lead Montana through these difficult times.
The leaders we elect next will need to be resilient, forward-thinking, and bold. I will be such a leader.