Voting in five separate, nonpartisan elections, Billings voters chose a diverse group for City Council terms starting in January.

Heights Ward 2 incumbent Roy Neese was elected to his first four-year term after being appointed to a vacancy about a year ago.

Newcomer Danny Choriki won the seat now held by Chris Freidel, who did not seek reelection in Ward 3, which covers midtown.

Ward 1 Councilwoman-elect Kendra Shaw will succeed incumbent Brent Cromley, who is term limited. Ward 1 stretches from the Southside through Alkali Creek.

In Ward 4, which runs along Rimrock Road to the western city limits, Pam Purinton will replace Reg Gibbs, who was appointed to the seat and chose not to seek election.

Mike Boyett won handily in Ward 5, which covers the far southwest of the city.

Turnout Tuesday was 43% of registered city voters, a high mark for a city election without a mayoral race. That turnout was fueled by the hotly contested race in Ward 4. Nearly a third (8,176) of the 24,909 ballots cast citywide were voted in Ward 4.

Purinton won with 4,140 votes to 4,005 for Carmelita Dominguez — the narrowest margin of victory among the five races, according to unofficial, final results from the Yellowstone County Elections Office. It was also the most expensive race with each of the candidates raising and spending more than several thousand dollars, according to financial reports filed with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

Dominguez and most other candidates who lost the council races Tuesday, said they plan to stay involved with community service. We congratulate the winners and thank their opponents for giving voters a choice of representation.

Despite some last-minute negative campaigning, candidates were generally civil and positive in their pitches. By law, the candidates were not permitted to identify themselves as members of a political party or to campaign as such for these nonpartisan offices. However, state law allows political parties to endorse, fund and campaign for nonpartisan candidates. Both the Democratic and Republican parties got involved in this year's municipal election, which included the unprecedented paid, public endorsement of Billings City Council candidates by the Montana state GOP central committee.

Now that voters have made their choices, partisan divisions must recede. As a recent Voice of the Reader letter said: "I have yet to see a Republican pothole, a Democratic traffic jam or a socialist boulder breaking off the Rims." The City Council's job is leadership on community issues that should unite, rather than divide citizens. This City Council has a full plate with crucial public safety decisions looming, a growing city that must expand and update infrastructure for air and ground transportation, water and sewer, and compete with other cities for young workers who value the outdoor quality of life enhanced by trails, parks and sports facilities.

That necessary community spirit is reflected in what Ward 1 candidate John Armstrong told a Gazette reporter after learning he didn't win: "I wish Kendra the best of luck and may she become a shining star city councilwoman." 

We call on all five of Tuesday's victors — Shaw, Neese, Choriki, Purinton and Boyett — to be shining examples of community service. We call on them to reach out and listen to folks with opposing views. We call on them to base their public policy decisions on facts that support the best interests of Billings.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.