I represent 20,000 Billings residents in the Legislature, and I know finding common ground — on both sides of the aisle — is key to great policy and great leadership. That is why I am speaking out as primary ballots arrive in mailboxes for city races.

Jeff Essmann is one of seven candidates on the ballot for Billings’ next mayor. Currently, he serves in the Legislature, and has been there since 2005. He also served as chair of the Montana Republican Party.

With such credentials, one would think Essmann has the skills of a leader known to unify stakeholders to deliver results for the folks here in Billings. The opposite couldn’t be truer.

The Legislature failed to pass an infrastructure funding bill. Much needed upgrades for deteriorating drinking water and sewage systems, crumbling bridges, old roofs and ventilation systems in our schools fell through the cracks. We missed out on $5 million for MSU Billings’ new science building, a project Essmann identified as a vital to growing our regional workforce.

The infrastructure bill would have brought $1.5 million to Billings for school building repairs. The package included $1.7 million to repair the water intake system in Laurel. Folks would have gone to work right away, infusing our local economy with dollars.

While Essmann supported the infrastructure package, he failed to rally and unify members of his own caucus from his own hometown. The people of Billings deserve better. Our mayor needs to unify and lead the community. Essmann is not that leader.

Jen Gross

Senate District 25