Charlie Smillie


As a native son of Billings, I returned home two years ago to pursue a career as a field director for the Montana Wilderness Association. I discovered in my hometown a wellspring of creativity, innovation, and inviting energy. That energy compels me to seek this opportunity to represent Ward I. I want to help my hometown thrive, and share a more proactive vision for progress and prosperity in our exceptional city.

We live in divisive, troubling times. The working class is overburdened. Climate change threatens our landscape and our livelihoods. Too many families feel insecure, or less-than-equal, sensing a better life for our children slipping out of reach. Our institutions seem incapable of navigating these braided, swift channels of crisis. I know city government is not designed to address such expansive problems. And I know that it’s popular to denounce politics and politicians as corrupt and unaccountable.

But I also know, with deep conviction, that we, as neighbors, are best equipped to rally around our common values and take action within our community to the benefit of all. Why can’t change for a better future begin right here, in Billings?

Start with a sense of civic possibility. Every time I’ve visited with my Ward I neighbors on the doors, I’ve heard new, creative, vital ideas for how we can improve our community. A dirt trail along a ditch — well-trod by schoolchildren — ought to be the next new bike path. Kids in working families need better access to after-school and summer programs. The Grand and Third side of Daylis Stadium could be a feature instead of an eyesore. The current council, penny wise and pound foolish, couldn’t find a way to plow the streets in winter, let alone lead the city in turning these lively ideas into reality.

We need new, principled leadership on our City Council. We need to embrace our momentum as a model for place-based growth, and set the pace for a new century of energy production and efficiency in eastern Montana. We need affordable housing, quality public safety, and up-to-date infrastructure. We need our residents and visitors alike to know that our city government stands up for the basic American values of equality: fairness and freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, color, or orientation.

I may be young, and I will be the first to tell you I’ve got a lot to learn. But I’m ready to learn, and to listen. Because I’m committed to this city, and the Yellowstone Valley. We are Montana’s Trailhead, envied the world over for a breathtaking landscape that supplies clean air, water and soil, agriculture, energy, hunting, fishing, adventure and much more. Just as important, Billings brims with industrious, creative, neighborly people. Let’s roll up our sleeves and press these advantages.

Charlie Smillie is a candidate for Billings Ward 1 in the Sept. 12 Primary Election.