Last week Mayor Bob Kelly visited both the noon and the evening meetings and organized his remarks around a SWOT analysis of the city we call home.


Strengths: For starters, we have a great City Commission with a breadth of experience and expertise and the ability to work well together. We also have a fantastic location, with a beautiful setting, a colorful and proud history, and opportunities to recreate and make a difference. Finally, we have great people, as illustrated by Rotary Club of Great Falls, whose generosity and community focus give Great Falls a strong social fabric.

Weaknesses: The Mayor pointed out one relatively new weakness and one old one. The new one falls under the category of "big city problems in a small city population" - the drug problem and its effect on the city. The old problem is the tax structure of municipal government itself. There are very few tools the City has to raise revenue besides the local property tax.

Opportunities: One of our greatest strengths, Mayor Kelly believes, is the potential the city has for innovation and growth. We're seeing businesses make investments in that potential. We are big enough to have the variety of people that make a city vibrant, but small enough to feel a sense of connection to one another. The young adults in our community are passionate about boosting what we've got.

Threats: The mayor said the biggest threat to the future of Great Falls is the lack of a workforce. We just had to close down two of the pools with a full, hot month of summer left because we couldn't find enough lifeguards to staff them. Many businesses, both existing and potential, complain that they qualified workforce they needs is just not available. Most crucial, according to the Mayor, is the loss of teachers. The persistent failure of mill levies in the past 12 years has meant cuts in teachers and in programs. Without a strong school system we can't create the economic and workforce we need and we will have difficulty attracting new professionals and businesses. Related to that threat, but separate is what the Mayor called the "distortion of the city narrative" that has occurred in recent years. "If you don't love your city," he pointed out, "nobody else will."

The evening meeting was small enough to allow for much more interaction, and Mayor Kelly enjoyed hearing from evening members about their impressions of Great Falls. Leon Green III pointed out that he decided to stay here after finished his MAFB service because his kids had fallen in love with our schools. Troy Halsell lives a stone's throw from our beautiful courthouse and enjoys discovering the city. Zach Swartz grew up here and thinks that while the downtown is important, there are other areas Great Falls can capitalize on its assets. A great discussion!