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Meis, Eldridge square off in Havre City Council Election

 

October 18, 2019

Erik Meis

Ballots are being mailed out today in the only contested Havre City Council election in this part of Montana, in Havre's Ward 4.

In that nonpartisan race, Derek Eldridge is challenging incumbent Erik Meis in his bid to retain the seat.

Meis was appointed to City Council in December of last year, taking the seat after Andrew Brekke resigned after moving out of Ward 4.

In September, the City Council passed a resolution canceling the Nov. 5 general election this year for the incumbent candidates who are running unopposed for re-election. Ward 4 was the only contested election.

Hingham has no contested election, and neither do Big Sandy, Chinook, Harlem and Chester.

Erik Meis

Meis, who owns multiple businesses including courier services and Havre car washes, said he wants to stay on the council and continue to learn and to work for the community.

"I'm still learning," Meis said Thursday, adding that he has only been on the council for a short time and he is still listening and figuring out how things on the council works. 

He said that he has enjoyed his time on the council and, if elected, he believes he can continue to make a positive impact.

He said that last November, when the city was taking applications for the vacant seat, he was the only applicant. 

Meis said he has been a member of the community for the past 43 years and deeply understands the community. He said that through his business and from being in the community, he talks to a number of different people about the city, getting their opinions about the city government and what they would like to see in their community, regardless if they are in his ward. 

A council member needs to have an understanding of their community and vote with the best interests of their constituents, he said.

"They may not express it to you directly, but where they live and how you've interacted with them in the past tells you a lot about how they want things to be," he said.

Part of the reason he submitted his application last year for the seat was because the council did not, at the time, have any business owners, he said. Business owners play a large role in the community and needed representation on the council, he said. He added that business owners, such as himself, have different views and understanding of the community, which is important to consider. 

He said that, at times, his views have been contradictory to the other members on the council, but it is a good thing because it leads to better decision making and more in-depth conversations.

"We do need a balance on the council and we need consistency," he said.

The city residents need basic representation on the council, he said.

"We are a meat-and-potatoes community," he said.

He added that, moving forward, the city needs to look at its infrastructure, such as the streets and sidewalks. He said that at the end of the month the city will be hosting a meeting Oct. 30, where Montana State University Extension Local Government Center Director Dan Clark will be in Havre to share information and answer questions on using special improvement districts to repair roads and infrastructure.

Meis said that when he first moved to Havre 43 years ago, the city had 22 SIDs, and, at the time, streets and sidewalks were maintained and fixed, but now only two SIDs remain.

"Everybody knows the state of our streets," Meis said. "The SIDs is our last option, I think, to improve the streets and stuff, and it will be up to individual neighborhoods if they want to do that."

He said he has learned a lot about the city and the city government since he was appointed in the council, and people often think everything can be fixed on a city level by the city, but because of funding restrictions, somethings are beyond the city's control. 

"Havre is still a vibrant community," he said. "Things are working."

Derek Eldridge

Eldridge, the manager at fivehead's, said that he was originally born and raised in Great Falls, and moved to Havre a little less than a decade ago to help his parents, Keith and Loretta Eldridge, open their businesses in Havre. He said he only had planned on living in the area for a few years, but ended up staying.

"I have never really been one to get into politics that much, but I found I wanted to do more and help more people," he said. "The best way that I could come up with doing, as of right now, is to run for City Council."

He added that he doesn't have an agenda; his main concern is giving a voice to people within his community.

"Sometimes, when you can talk to people or talk to politicians or talk to someone on City Council, you can feel like you are talking to a brick wall and not being understood," he said. "The people who feel like they don't have a voice, I want them to have a voice."

Eldridge said he had considered applying for the council seat last November, but because of his schedule at the time, decided against it. He added that once the elections got closer, he had a couple of people approach him and ask if he was going to run, and he thought that it would be a perfect time to do so. 

He said he knows he will be in the community for a while and he wants to do what he can for the community and help build it. 

The city has some big issues at the moment and it's time to do something about it, he said.

A couple of the things the city already has in the works is making improvements on the roads, the community dog park and the vacant property registration ordinance. He added that these are the biggest issues he has heard people talk about and it is the City Council's job to listen and respond.

He added that the mall could also be a big potential issue for the city moving forward.

Eldridge said he is an outside-of-the-box thinker and sometimes people need out-of-the-box ideas and to find creative solutions to problems.

"It may be the right solution for the issues," he said. "I like to see something is going to happen, even if it is different from what is normally done."

Derek Eldridge

He also wants to encourage people to help each other out, he said, whether it is a passing compliment or helping someone change a tire on the side of the road. A little bit of kindness can go a long way, he said. 

"Honestly, it doesn't take very long, and, honestly, you can change somebody's day completely just by saying "Hi" to them," he said. "... I would like to see more of that in the city of Havre."

Everyday kindness means a lot for a community and can have a large impact on how a community functions, he said.

"If I am not the right candidate for this position then so be it," Eldridge said. "I'm not here to make anything better for myself, I'm here to do what I can to help the city of Havre and the people who live here."

 

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