Reg Gibbs, the newest member of the Billings City Council has a resume that’s long on community volunteering in a remarkably diverse career as a professional rehabilitation counselor. Representing Ward 4 is his first foray into public office.
With approval from the council, Mayor Bill Cole appointed Gibbs to serve the remaining two years of the four-year term of Ryan Sullivan, who resigned to take a job in Texas.
As The Gazette’s opinion editor, I have the job of interviewing city council candidates every two years before November elections. Because Gibbs was in the unusual (for our city council) position of taking office by appointment, it seemed only fair that I should interview him, too. Meeting Gibbs in his West End office, I was impressed by his energy and the variety of work he does through his counseling business.
A Glendive native, Gibbs earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Montana College and a master’s degree from Montana State University Billings, where he also taught part-time for 13 years. Gibbs and his wife, Julie, have three children — one in college and two in Billings Public Schools.
He chaired the committee that was tasked with helping the city become more accessible as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Another of his volunteer stints was two weeks spent at New York City’s Ground Zero in November 2001. Police, cleanup and Red Cross crews were still working around the clock removing debris and the air was still choked with dust. Gibbs had the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at Ground Zero where he talked with workers and distributed coffee and sandwiches. He pointed out that he was just one of nearly 20 professional counselors from the Billings region who volunteered to help New York.
Gibbs created a research software company geared to the rehabilitation industry and is committed to using science-based information in decision making.
“I’m a big believer in using technology to improve people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t want to come in and change everything. We aren’t in office for personal agendas. I do plan on being very active in response to constituent concerns.”
In his first week as a councilman, Gibbs had already met with Police Chief Rich St. John, City Attorney Brent Brooks and interim finance director Andy Zoeller. He plans to meet the other seven department heads soon.
“I like to think differently — to apply innovative thought,” Gibbs said, suggesting that it would be great for Billings to have a chief innovation officer whose job is to lead others in devising more efficient and effective ways to provide city services.
The council’s No. 1 priority this year, however, is to “hire the best city administrator we can get. We have to get it right.” The council has started the process for hiring a successor to Bruce McCandless, who has said he wants to retire by the end of 2018.
Gibbs is concerned about crime and will work on “bringing our community together toward the goal of community safety.”
Having dealt with people affected by addiction in his counseling practice, Gibbs is attuned to the challenges of methamphetamine, opioids and substance abuse disorders.
I expect Gibbs to be an advocate for people with disabilities and to generate lots of ideas — some that will work, some that won’t — for doing city business better. Energetic, articulate and open to new ideas, Gibbs strikes me as a good addition to our city council.
Meet Reg Gibbs
Constituents who want to meet their new councilman will find him at the West End Task Force meeting at 7 p.m. on March 20, at Faith Evangelical Church, 3145 Sweet Water Drive, Room 130/183. He also has scheduled a meeting from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 24 at Poly Drive Elementary School. Gibbs may be reached by phone at 670-2327 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.