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New Polson officials sworn in

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POLSON ­­— On the same week citizens were remembering last year’s armed assault on the U.S. Capitol, grassroots democracy was unfolding across the nation in its usual, somewhat sedate fashion as local governments welcomed new and returning elected officials. 

At the Polson City Commission’s first meeting of the New Year, held Jan. 3, outgoing mayor Paul Briney swore in new mayor Eric Huffine, new commissioners Jake Holley (Ward 1) and Laura Dever (who was initially appointed to the council last July to fill a vacancy in Ward 2) and incumbent Brodie Moll, who begins his second term representing Ward 3. Symptomatic of the ongoing pandemic, Briney administered the oath to Dever and Moll via Zoom.

Mayor Huffine, a local businessman who owns Riverside Recreation and Wall and Slab, said he’s looking forward to “the opportunity to hopefully have a positive impact on my community.”

 His first formal duty was to present the two outgoing officials with plaques.

 “I’d like to thank you for all your years of service to this community Lou,” he said to retiring commissioner Lou Marchello, who served as mayor from 2007-2009 and as commissioner from 2016-2021. “You’ve done a helluva job.” 

He noted that Briney “is going to be a tough act to follow.”

Ed Meece thanked Briney and Marcello for helping him out during his first year as city manager. “They’ve both been a pleasure to work with and both have a sincere commitment to this community that they’ve demonstrated over and over,” he said.

In other business:

The commission declined to elect an acting chairperson to run meetings in the mayor’s absence, as has been done in the past. Instead, they opted to select a chairperson on an as-needed basis.

Moll, who held the position in 2021, endorsed the more fluid approach. “We’ve got a really good city commission here,” he said. “I have real confidence in my peers. I think any one of us can do a good job of running these meetings.”

In other housekeeping measures, the commission unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance that clearly defines how commissioners will be appointed to the governing board to fill future vacancies. They also appointed Dennis Labonty and Larry Ashcraft to serve on the Polson Golf Board through 2022. 

Meece noted that the city is looking for citizen volunteers to serve on an impact fee advisory committee. The city’s engineering firm, HDR Engineering, will take the lead on drafting fee revisions, which are required by city charter. Information about the advisory committee will be posted on the city’s website. 

Meece also encouraged the commission to offer up some dates for a workshop on a new business license that the city staff is drafting. 

The public workshop, tentatively slated for either Jan. 26 or Feb. 2, would give the commissioners, business leaders and community members a preliminary look at the plan, which Meece estimates is 80% complete. The informal conversation will also help the staff make revisions before submitting an ordinance to the city commission.

“Polson has never had a business license before so we’re going into uncharted territory,” Meece said. “I want to make sure that everybody has a seat at the table and an opportunity to come and understand this.”


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