Photo by Jana Bounds

What it takes to serve on a board


Unincorporated Big Sky is unique in a plethora of ways. Many longterm residents say the only reason this beautiful experiment on the mountain has made it is largely due to volunteers. There are people in the community who have continually juggled family demands, work, hobbies and participation with local non profits. To do so for the same organization, and for years, demands residents that are a cut above. Big Sky County Water and Sewer District general manager Ron Edwards said he has been particularly lucky with board members – many have decades of experience in the community. “We’ve got a lot of great people. In my former life, a board I was working with couldn’t make a decision. This board, right, wrong or indifferent, can make decisions,” he said. BSCWSD vice chair Tom Reeves said that board members can spend a good deal of time educating themselves on the issues and that it takes a time-investment before feeling comfortable making determinations on those issues. “The learning curve of this board is as steep and as rigorous as anything can be,” Edwards said. “I will have links to the whole historical file which can be 265 pages.” Being a public face on a board that shapes the community means there is no shortage of headaches, but there is also something profoundly beautiful in the commitment itself and that community members are willing to undertake the weekly grind of research – and the scrutiny. “It will take a full year before you start understanding the complexities of the issues. If you have a particular point of view and [something] is bothering you and it has anything to do with your job, you have to recuse yourself,”  Reeves said. So, the very same matter that might cause a community member to want to run for a board position might be the very same topic they can never address. There is really no room on these boards for specific agendas to function as motivation, Reeves explained. 

Overall, Reeves said time commitment can vary between four hours a month to a lot more. “Whatever you want to commit. Ron [Edwards] doesn’t say, ‘Get the Hell out of here ever,’” he said. “And I call you all the time to do things,” BSCWSD administrative assistant Marlene Kennedy said. Reeves, who was previously on the Big Sky Fire Department board, said BSCWSD typically demands more time, but the fire department board will be busy in the foreseeable future as they search for a new fire chief.  Bill Farhat will be difficult to replace, he said. As Big Sky changes Big Sky Resort Area District regional manager Daniel Bierschwale explained that boards need to also transition. “We really want more diverse segments of the community represented on the board. We are looking for a true representation of the community. This board is attuned to trying to move that forward,” he said.


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