Mayor Bill Cole said Thursday that selecting Ryan Sullivan’s successor on the Billings City Council “is going to be a very difficult choice.”

That’s because 10 candidates — “each of them a real achiever,” he said — are vying to complete Sullivan’s term, which runs through Dec. 31, 2019. Sullivan resigned his Ward 4 seat to move to Houston.

Cole and most of the council met with the 10 candidates Wednesday.

“The hard part will be choosing the best apple from a bushel of good ones,” Cole said. “The high quality of the applicants who threw their hat in the ring confirms what we already knew: The smart people wait to be appointed to public office and don’t subject themselves to the misery of an election.”

The Billings City Charter gives the mayor the power to name Sullivan’s successor “with the advice and consent of the majority of the remaining City Council.”

Cole said he’s asked council members for their input and plans to announce his selection during the council’s Feb. 12 business meeting. The council will vote on the person that evening ahead of a 30-day deadline to name Sullivan’s successor.

If a majority of the council can’t agree on Cole’s pick, the mayor can name another candidate that evening or call for a special meeting of the council before the Feb. 15 deadline. After that date, the city would have to hold, at its expense, a special election among Ward 4 voters to determine Sullivan’s successor.

“Council member Sullivan represented Ward 4 with special energy and intelligence with a personality that was a problem-solver,” Cole said. “Those are all great traits to have in his successor.”

The 10 candidates are:

  • Mike Boyett, vice-chair of the Billings Zoning Commission who also served on the Billings Crime Prevention Council and Billings Police Commission.
  • David A. Fishbaugh, chair of the city’s Parking Advisory Board and a Billings Downtown Partnership board member.
  • Reg Gibbs, a licensed clinical professional counselor and president of Rocky Mountain Rehab. He chairs the Valley Federal Credit Union board of directors.
  • Oscar L. Heinrich Jr. serves on the Billings Board of Adjustment, the Yellowstone County Tax Appeal Board and the Yellowstone County Elected Officials Compensation Committee.
  • Rich Lammers is an attending physician at St. Vincent Healthcare’s Department of Emergency Medicine. He’s proficient in Spanish.
  • Shirley Girard McDermott served two terms on the city council representing Ward 1. One of her stated goals is that the city form closer relationships with Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College.
  • Barbi McLaws has experience with collecting nearly 26,000 signatures in 10 days for the Safe Community/Safe Kids organization. A community’s “first responsibility,” she said in her cover letter, “is to protect children in their right to be raised in a safe environment where they can prosper, learn and grow into healthy, contributing adults.”
  • Daron Olson is the marketing director at Starwood Retail Partners. His volunteer experience includes the Relay for Life and Downtown Billings Alliance board of directors.
  • Gordon L. Olson is a “semiretired engineer desiring to participate in local and state government.” He said his interpersonal skills, education and work experience in agriculture and energy will enable him to “convey critical concepts and issues to the people of Billings.”
  • Jason Smith is co-owner and operator of Montana Advanced Caregivers, a medical marijuana provider. Over the course of his career, he says he’s developed a skill set “directly relevant to the Council member role you are hiring for.”

Residents can also let their elected officials know how they feel about the candidates. Send an email to Cole and the 10 council members by visiting


City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.