Billings lost one of the city’s greatest neighborhood advocates last week with the death of Marion Dozier at age 77.
Dozier served two terms on the City Council, ending in 1991. Her community contributions started long before her council tenure and continued in the decades after.
A South Side resident for half a century, Dozier was her neighborhood’s fiercest defender. She helped organize the South Side Task Force in 1975. The Task Force, one of the first in in Billings, helped direct Community Development Block Grant funds to housing rehabilitation and low-interest loans for first-time home buyers. It evolved from working to get grants for neighborhood improvements to a forum for a wide range of community concerns such as crime and pollution.
The South Side Task force frequently opposed commercial and institutional development in its residential neighborhoods.
“People know now that they’re not going to be able to put a warehouse in the middle of a residential area,” Dozier told The Gazette in a 1994 interview.
When Dozier ran for City Council in 1982, The Gazette’s candidate profile said: “If experience with government and government agencies were the measure of political success, Marion Dozier could count on a hands-down victory in the Nov. 8 election for the Ward I City Council seat.”
Dozier won that election and was re-elected four years later. She always kept her focus on her Ward I constituents on the South Side and downtown.
She opposed a Police Department policy setting a quota for officers to issue traffic tickets, arguing that there were higher priorities, such as neighborhood burglaries.
She advocated for public safety, at a time the city administrator was proposing cutbacks. She supported more staff and more funding for police and fire protection.
Dozier proposed and the council approved allocating $100,000 in 1988 for a project to house the city’s homeless population.
Dozier was in the council minority in opposing a general local option sales tax, although she supported a local 2-cent- a-gallon gas tax that voters rejected. She said the gas tax money would improve streets, but that the general sales tax would hit lower income residents hardest.
After she was termed out on the council, Dozier worked as the emergency homeless coordinator for the Human Resources Development Council, trying to help low-income families find affordable housing in the early 1990s.
In 2006, Dozier co-chaired the ad hoc committee appointed to advise the City Council on criteria for hiring a new city administrator – after the council’s previous hire lasted less than two years. That council search ended with the promotion of Tina Volek to city administrator, a job Volek held for 13 years.
Dozier was a frequent contributor to Voice of the Reader, penning letters on neighborhood issues and occasionally endorsing candidates for local office. Her letters were always neatly typed and usually delivered in person to the newsroom. Her 2002 Golden Pen Award letter pleading for repair of a wading pool was typical of her arguments: “Our little kids in the poorest neighborhood, with the largest minority population and with the highest number of single heads of household, want a wading pool at Highland Park.”
Her last letter, printed on Dec. 11, opined on garbage collection and city utility fees.
Marion Dozier will be greatly missed in the neighborhood she championed and the city she served. We offer deepest sympathy to her family and friends.