My Campaign Biography
Melissa Smith, Candidate for Montana House District 20
I’m Melissa Smith, and I’m a Montanan, a professional pianist, and teacher, currently working in Great Falls.
I was raised in Havre, with my summers spent with my grandparents in the Flathead Valley, resulting in my deep love and respect for Montana landscapes, from the high plains to the glacier valleys. I received a first-class education here, from Kindergarten in Havre through my BA from the University of Montana.
As the story goes, the first time I was asked to run for office in Montana in the 1980’s, I did run, but by running away from the state for 31 years. Even though I lived elsewhere, though, I never really left Montana, where my family and deep roots were. I spent the majority of my summers here over the past few decades. In 2015, I started a Summer family business with my sister, who lives in Belgrade. Our business, Dia Desserts, produces gluten-free cheesecakes in Mason jars. We have sold our product at Farmer’s Markets in Belgrade, Bozeman and Great Falls. We have participated in classic Montana summer festivals, including the Red Ants Pants Music Festival, Bozeman’s Support Local Artists and Musicians (a.k.a. “SLAM”), the Manhattan Potato Festival, the Missoula Bacon and Brew Festival, Great Falls’ Downtown Night Markets; and the Virgelle Flea Market.
In 2018, my mother turned 88, and needed more help, closer by. My husband David and I packed up our California life, and moved to Montana, relocating to Great Falls. Mom now lives at the Grandview Assisted Living facility in Great Falls, and every day that the three of us live in the same town I count as a blessing.
Now, it’s time for me to give back to Montana – the state that has nurtured and sustained me throughout my entire life, no matter where I roamed. I’m running for House District 20 because I want Montanans to thrive. To achieve this goal, I intend to focus on three core issues: conservation, education, and public safety.
As a Conservationist, I’ve long been a passionate advocate for clean air and water, and the preservation of our public lands and national parks. I’m a member of Great Falls-based Citizens for Clean Energy, and had the great honor of presenting an energy conservation resolution (Resolution 10333) at a February 2020 Great Falls City Commissioner meeting. We are still working to pass this Resolution – on hold by the Commission during the Coronavirus emergency. I’m also excited to announce that my garage solar panel installation was completed in the Spring of 2020. I will advocate for the creation of more jobs for Montanans through the development of clean energy technologies throughout the state. We have everything we need here to be a national leader in clean energy: water, sun and wind, combined with Montanan ingenuity.
I will fight to maintain access to our public lands. Once, in California, a Montanan told me the difference between California and Montana lay in the fences: in Montana, fences are for keeping animals in, whereas in California, they are for keeping people out! That hit home for me; as an appreciator of Montana’s natural beauty, I knew well that I was extremely privileged to be able to explore that beauty with very few restrictions. In addition, Montana’s economy depends in part on open access to our public lands for tourism, hunting and recreation. On education, it is my strong desire to ensure that all students receive a first-class education like I did, in our public schools. I fully supported the 2020 Mill Levy for Great Falls Public Schools (a.k.a. “KEY: Kid’s Education – Yes!”). I have seen the abuses of vouchers in education funding, especially for charter schools. In California, the flaws of funding schools with property taxes were obvious – poorer districts could never raise the tax base necessary to adequately fund their schools. In Montana, too, this model exposes the limits of property tax funding for our rural schools. The dedicated teachers in our rural areas are doing extraordinary work, but the shortage of funds means that these schools are unable to attract new teachers and retain them. And it’s not just in the rural areas; the problem extends to Great Falls as well. The model that we have been using to fund our schools creates inherent inequality of opportunity for a quality education for all. I want to work with educators and legislators from across Montana to develop a funding model for our schools that is equitable, sustainable, and which creates the best opportunities for education throughout Montana. All Montanans should feel safe to gather anywhere, free from the threat of violence – especially the most vulnerable among us. To this end, I vow to work to pass a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance. I support Marsy’s Law, which ensures that victims of crime have equal, Constitutional rights on par with those accused and those convicted of crimes. I applaud the Legislature for their work to create laws and partnerships with tribal authorities that address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. I want to strengthen laws that protect families from domestic violence. I believe in the Second Amendment, though I do not believe that its authors ever intended for guns to be omnipresent in all public spaces. Every community should be able to decide for itself where guns should and should not to be permitted.
I’m a fierce advocate for our Montana way of life. I want all Montanans to thrive – and we will! –with dedicated public servants like me, fighting tooth and nail to preserve the last, best place.