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The Big Sky Way: Serving Big Sky

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By Daniel Bierschwale EBS COLUMNIST

In a previous column, we outlined the special purpose districts of Big Sky and the civic responsibility we have to vote in elections. The boundary and mission of these districts are not all the same, however many are similarly governed by boards of directors or trustees: some are appointed, and some are publicly elected. Have you, as a local resident, ever considered public service by running for one of these positions?

Depending on where you reside, you will only see positions applicable to your district geography on your next ballot. Special purpose and school district elections happen every year in May. The following seats are up for the 2024 election*: 

  • Big Sky County Water & Sewer District No. 363 – 3 seats
  • Big Sky Fire Department Rural Fire District #115 – 2 seats
  • Big Sky Resort Area District – 3 seats
  • Big Sky School District #72 – 2 seats
  • Ennis School District #52 – 2 seats
  • Madison Valley Hospital District – 2 seats
  • Yellowstone Mountain Club Rural Fire District – 1 seat

*Information provided by the county elections offices

What does it take to get on the ballot?

Elections for special purpose districts are outlined by MCA 13.1.5 and are conducted by the appropriate county election administrator. For simplicity sake we will not denote key days for school districts elections who have a slightly different calendar, as outlined by MCA 20.3.3. If a special purpose district lies in more than one county, the county election administrator in the county with the largest percentage of qualified electors in the district shall conduct the election.

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Montana Secretary of State website hosts a section dedicated to Elections and Voter Services providing information and candidate forms. Candidates must fill out and file a declaration of nomination and oath of candidacy before the filing deadline. Key dates for the 2024 election are:

  • Candidate Filing Opens – Dec. 14, 2023
  • Candidate Filing Closes – Feb. 12, 2024 by 5 p.m. 
  • Write-in Candidate Declaration of Intent Filing – March 8, 2024 by 5 p.m. 
  • Election Day – May 7, 2024

If the number of candidates for a specific position is not more than the seats available, there would be no election and consequently they would not appear on the ballot. Those who filed would be appointed by acclamation.

Why talk about it now?

While candidate filing doesn’t open until Dec. 14, it’s important to do your research now. Before running for any open position, you should get to know the organization and make sure you would be a good fit for the board. 

To start, simply attending a board meeting will give you a sense of regularly conducted business, order of operation, and the diverse skills that currently exist with those serving. Most organizations publish their meeting dates and agendas in advance on their websites. The community calendar Navigate Big Sky ( also outlines these dates.

In addition to attending a board meeting, you can gain valuable insight from engaging with the current board and staff. Scheduling time to meet with these individuals will help you to understand the commitments and basic functions of the role. It is also an opportunity for those currently serving to outline potential gaps in skills and abilities to see if you may be able to help further the mission of the organization. This is a mutually beneficial process.

Do your research. Talk to other community members about your potential interest. Review publicly available organizational materials including audit reports, annual reports, meeting minutes, strategic plans and governing documents, such as bylaws. Understand the tone and community engagement strategies by visiting their website and following them on social media. 

For those of you who have already committed countless hours to public service in Big Sky, thank you on behalf of your community. Without your service the community would only be a shell of this amazing place we call home. For those of you who have not served please consider the critical impact you can make on Big Sky today and for the future.

Daniel Bierschwale is the Executive Director of the Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD). As a dedicated public servant, he is committed to increasing civic engagement and voter education. Many ballot issues impact government services and public funding including subsequent property tax impacts. BSRAD is the local government agency that administers Resort Tax, which offsets property taxes while also funding numerous community-wide nonprofit programs. 

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