Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Melissa Berke, Libby City Council

| October 12, 2021 7:00 AM

In anticipation of the November municipal election, The Western News sent questionnaires to all Libby and Troy candidates. Each candidate received the same questions and word limits. Libby City Council candidate responses will appear in alphabetical order in subsequent issues of The Western News. Responses submitted by mayoral candidates will appear in separate issues. Answers may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Info Box:

What is your occupation?

I am an entrepreneur, I own Polished Cleaning LLC.

What is your age?

I am 36 years old.

How long have you lived in Libby?

I was born in Libby and have lived here my whole life.

What community organizations are you involved in?

I volunteer at KVCS, I am always willing to help wherever I can within the community.

Interview Questions:

What aspects of your background and experience would you draw on if elected?

With experience in small businesses, I understand budgeting monies, which would be helpful in our city's tight budget. I grew up in a small business that my mother ran for over 15 years. I was actively helping throughout that time, and now run my own business of six years, with employees. I have worked in Libby in customer service, allowing for plenty of face time with the public. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service for nine years as a senior firefighter, which gave me leadership skills, a much greater understanding of our forests and a peek into federal politics pertaining to our forest management. My background is here in Libby. I was born and raised here, and plan to stay and continue raising my children here. I have a great interest in this city succeeding, I want us all to enjoy living here and be a part of progressing this city to its greatest potential. I'm vested here, I truly want what is best for this community. I will listen to concerns and opinions of our community members throughout my term, if elected.

What infrastructure projects would you prioritize during your term?

Very important infrastructure for comfortable daily living is functional water and sewer, and decent roads to drive on. I would follow our city engineer's recommendations for water and sewer line replacement projects. I would push for more paving of our city streets to be done. If we can stay ahead on our roads, maybe we can keep them from getting so bad they become undriveable. With federal and state funding, grant money and our gas tax, we can do a better job keeping up on the roads.

What policies would you pursue to make Libby more attractive to businesses and employers?

I would start by speaking with Port Authority management. They have access to a large piece of commercially zoned land. Approximately 400 acres with a rail head on site and plenty of commercial buildings to repurpose. I would like to see an industry go in there that can employ hundreds of people with good paying salaries. An industry that will stay, be comparable to the days of logging and the lumber mill. The logging industry employed many, kept our economy strong, and made Libby desirable for other businesses to come here. That is how I believe we attract employers and business. If we have one strong industry, the rest will follow, to support the influx we would likely see.

That of course would add to the housing crisis, which is a problem across the nation. In that case, I would like to see single family home development in Libby's areas that can support that demand on infrastructure. As well as multifamily housing, in the properly zoned areas, to accommodate all housing needs. There are a lot of issues that need to be brought forward and discussed openly with our community and input must be heard by our elected officials. I will listen, I am doing this for Libby, this is my home too.