The Big Sky Resort Area District board will welcome two new members when results of the next election are tallied on Tuesday, May 8.
In December, board secretary Ginna Hermann announced that she would not be seeking a third term, and in January, treasurer Heather Budd disclosed that she will not be pursuing a second.
At the Feb. 14 resort tax board meeting, Budd suggested to her colleagues that they consider expanding from five to seven members, citing the heavy workload the board carries, and the significant increase in residents, visitors and businesses that are now in Big Sky, compared to when the district was formed in 1992.
Below, meet the four candidates who will appear on ballots mailed to Big Sky Resort Area District residents in late April.
Sarah Blechta moved to Big Sky in 1991 with her parents, Carmen and Pat “Wooly” Wooldridge, when she was 6 years old. Besides attending high school and college in Minnesota, she has spent the majority of her life in Big Sky. After receiving her teaching degree, she returned to her hometown, working her way up through positions at both Big Sky Resort and the Yellowstone Club. Blechta is currently the director of property owners associations at the Yellowstone Club, and she and her husband Ryan have a daughter in kindergarten at Ophir Elementary School. She understands first-hand the challenges of affording to live here, raise a family and ensure a sustainable future.
As an active member of the community, she currently serves as the president of the South Fork Phase II homeowners association, and just completed a five-year term on the Morningstar Learning Center board. There she helped to implement a capital fundraising campaign for the recently completed infant building, thanks in part to the Big Sky Resort Area District. As a successfully funded applicant, she understands the appropriations process and impact of Big Sky’s resort tax, as well as the magnitude of a board position.
Growing up here, Blechta has experienced first-hand the growth of the area over the past 20-plus years. She understands where Big Sky has come from and where it’s heading as a unique resort community. She is a creative thinker, understands financials through her volunteer and professional roles, and comes with energy and passion for this place she has called home for the majority of her life. Blechta looks forward to helping shape Big Sky as a sustainable community for all who make it home and visit.
Paul “Buz” Davis is the president and CEO of Davis & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in strategic business alliances, executive coaching, and board training for corporations and nonprofits. His professional background includes extensive experience collaborating with communities and organizations in transition to develop a strategic plan.
In 2012 and 2013, Davis led the Big Sky Resort Area District board through a strategic planning process to convey the board’s vision to the community and the community’s role in shaping that vision. As part of that process, Davis and former resort tax board chair Les Loble led town hall meetings to aid the board in its directive to make Big Sky a “world-class community.”
Davis has been involved with a number of other community engagement initiatives. In 2014, he led the Big Sky Water and Sewer District in a planning retreat. Two years prior, he did the same for Big Sky Community Corporation, now called the Big Sky Community Organization. In 2013, he participated in a multi-year effort to bring a hospital to the area, which culminated in the opening of the Big Sky Medical Center in December 2015.
Davis has been active in infrastructure planning discussions to ensure that Big Sky grows in a responsible and sustainable manner. Last fall, he introduced an alternative to NorthWestern Energy’s planned open-air substation, an undertaking that involved significant research into a smaller gas-insulated substation.
After first visiting Big Sky more than two decades ago, Davis became a part-time resident in 2012. He and his wife Margaret became full-time residents in 2015, and Davis is an avid skier, hiker and kayaker.
Steve Johnson and his family started visiting Big Sky in the early 1990s, and enjoyed a vacation property here for several years. He retired fulltime to Big Sky in 2001, following a career with Accenture, an international management consulting and professional services firm.
After settling in to the area and building a home, Johnson became actively engaged in the community, serving as a volunteer with the Big Sky Fire Department, Big Sky Search and Rescue, and the Big Sky Resort volunteer ski patrol. He was also very active with the Big Sky Community Organization as a trails volunteer and board member. Johnson has stepped back somewhat from these roles, but remains involved as a member of the Gallatin Canyon/Big Sky Zoning Advisory Committee, a trustee of the Big Sky Trails, Recreation and Parks District, and a board member of Big Sky Fire District.
Over the past four years he has been involved with collaborative efforts focused on the future of Custer Gallatin National Forest lands, and the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area. He is an avid fly fisherman, and has volunteered for many years with Warriors and Quiet Waters in Bozeman as a fly-tying instructor. Steve and his wife Jeanne have four children and six grandchildren, who are all living in the West.
Craig Smit has been a resident of Big Sky since 1990 and is the owner of LTD Real Estate. He is currently on the board of the South Fork Phase II homeowners association and the Blue Grouse Condos homeowners association.
Smit has two sons, Kyan and Colter, enrolled in Ophir Middle School, and they enjoy skiing and mountain biking together, in addition to all of the other outdoor pursuits available to members of this resort community.
As a full-time resident here for many years, he understands the critical importance of the 3-percent resort tax and it’s part in funding Big Sky’s infrastructure. Smit recognizes it is a lot of work and responsibility to serve on the Big Sky Resort Area District tax board and believes he is well equipped to represent the locals of Big Sky.