Mike Yakawich, who represents Ward 1 on the Billings City Council, seeks four more years to continue work that’s included helping residents replace lead pipes, painting over graffiti and revitalizing neighborhood task forces.
Yakawich, 57, filed at the Yellowstone County Courthouse for re-election Thursday, the first day candidates could do so.
“It’s not a ‘me’ thing,” Yakawich said. “I can’t do it without constituents, the rest of the City Council and city staff.”
In a ward that includes the South Side and portions of downtown and the Heights, Yakawich is involved with six neighborhood task forces: Southwest Corridor, South Side, Pioneer Park, North Park, Heights and Central/Terry. The first five “are going strong,” he said, but Central/Terry “needs to be revitalized. I try to get to every meeting and encourage them, but a few (task forces) are limping along.”
In addition to answering questions and doing what he can for constituents, Yakawich is the new president of the South Side Community Center and attends monthly meetings of both the South Billings Urban Renewal District and the East Billings Urban Renewal Districts.
He founded the March Against Drugs and Violence and organized an annual event for first responders following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I’m a workaholic. I know it,” he said. “I lose energy if I don’t see we’re accomplishing things.”
On Wednesday night, “I closed my laptop at midnight. Fortunately, I can do a lot of work from home.”
Yakawich is regional director of the nonprofit Global Peace Foundation. His work focuses on preventing suicide and substance abuse. “I’m getting paid for doing what I like to do,” he said.
He’s also a member of the FBI’s human trafficking task force.
“I try not to use a position on the City Council as a bully pulpit,” he said. “I just find out what people need.”
“I find my number one (City Council) duty is answering the phone, listening and being on site,” he said. “People more than anything just want to be heard.”
On Wednesday, he said, a city street crew showed up near a constituent’s home to fill some potholes that the constituent had identified.
“He said, ‘I didn’t expect you to come by so soon,’” Yakawich said. “They are so grateful.”
Yakawich said over four years he's knocked on 900 doors in his ward. He's having 5,000 pieces of campaign literature printed for the current campaign.
"I'm not going to take anything for granted," he said.
He and his wife, Yukiko, have five children with a grandchild on the way.