Two trustees to join the Big Sky Fire Department board
Two spots were open and two community members filed, and will win by acclamation, seats on the Big Sky Fire Department Board of Trustees. Matt Dodd and Deborah Lewis will join the board in May, 2018.
Dodd and Lewis will take the place of current trustees Tom Reeves and Steve Johnson. Due to state regulation Reeves and Johnson cannot rerun as they are also on the ballot for the Big Sky Water Sewer District board and Big Sky Resort Area Tax District board respectively. Montana law prohibits anyone from running for more than one position on a ballot.
Georgia native Matt Dodd came to Big Sky as a 21-year-old ski instructor in 2000, “because Hans Schernthaner offered me $0.50 more an hour than the folks in Winter Park, CO.”
Like many of us, he still recalls his first glimpse of Lone Peak. “I remember the first time I turned at the Conoco, I looked up at the peak and assumed no one could ski up there,” Dodd wrote in an email to the Lookout. “A month later, I was trying (unsuccessfully) to follow my new friends down off the tram.”
Five years later, he convinced his girlfriend Ashley to try out Big Sky for a winter. She did, and stayed. The two eventually married, but left Big Sky while Matt attended law school. When they began considering a place to raise a family Big Sky seemed to be the right fit. “So far, so good for Ashley, myself, and our two kids, Piper and Jasper,” said Dodd.
Dodd, a trial lawyer, brings his experience in starting and serving on several board of directors. While working for the Big Sky Snowsports School, he and Ashley, along with other ski and snowboard instructors, started Kidski, a non-profit dedicated to building self-esteem, social awareness, and a love and concern of the outdoor environment in underprivileged area youth. That went five seasons until he headed to law school. He’s now the president of the Morningstar Learning Center board of directors.
Respect for the BSFD crew motivated Dodd to get onboard. “These are people who have bought into the community and what it will become in the years ahead, he said. “While we continue to add new members, many of the crew has been with the department for a decade or more. While I got my fire card in college many years ago, I will likely never gain my son’s respect as a full-time firefighter. But, I am in a position to help the men and women of our Fire Department get the tools and support they need to do their jobs.”
Dodd believes the role of a trustee is to fight to ensure our crew members get what they need. “In any given day, trustees should be expected to drum up support amongst our friends and family, argue to the Resort Tax Board for more funding for the Fire Department’s growing needs, or work with local developers to ensure they take the Fire Department’s needs into consideration. Because I spend a good portion of my day job fighting for other folks, I am hopeful I can bring those same skills to the table as a trustee,” he wrote in his email to the Lookout.
The continued growth of the Big Sky community is a challenge that Dodd foresees for the department. “As with many of our local organizations, the Big Sky Fire Department continues to adapt to meet our increasing year-round population, part-time residents and tourists, and the resulting infrastructure,” he wrote. “In order to do so, the Fire Department will need the support of the local community, our visitors, and those that are developing and profiting on Big Sky’s growth. In addition to good wishes and community respect, the Fire Department will need the continued financial support of all these groups as it attempts to grow alongside Big Sky itself.”
Dr. Debra Lewis
Deb Lewis was born and raised in southern California, but for as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be in the mountains. After her undergraduate studies at Montana State University she attended medical school at St. Louis University, focusing on internal medicine and pediatrics. She eventually found herself moonlighting in emergency rooms, where she realized her love for that field, which she’s been in ever since. She eventually relocated to Big Sky, has worked at St. James Healthcare in Butte for 17 years, and recently took on a few shifts at Big Sky Medical Center.
Current BSFD board vice chair Carol Collins reached out to Lewis about joining the board. “As an ER doc, I have a great love and respect for first responders and the incredibly hard job they do, so that seemed like a great idea,” Lewis said. “I’m totally psyched to be part of the community in this way.”
Lewis hopes to bring a good understanding of some of the challenges that fire departments and medics face. “I’ve worked closely with EMTs and Paramedics for over 20 years,” she wrote in an email to the Lookout. “Emergency medicine is an extension of what these folks do in the field and I want to make our system as efficient and smooth as possible.”
She looks forward to gaining a better understanding of the BSFD’s needs and challenges. “I would imagine that, like all departments I’ve known, staffing, training, facilities and equipment will be ongoing issues,” said Lewis. “I think the resort community and the seasonal nature of our world bring special challenges along with the rapid pace of growth we are experiencing.”
For Lewis, her success on the board will be measured in community support. “The folks in the department who I’ve met so far are really kind, caring, hardworking people,” Lewis continued in her email. “There is clearly a culture of kindness and strong work ethic that I hope continues as our community grows and inevitably puts new strains and pressures on the emergency response system. If in three years we have a department that feels supported by the community and is able to function at the same high level without feeling overburdened and understaffed, that will be success.”