Paid Parental Leave

Since before becoming a City Commissioner, I have envisioned paid parental leave for all city employees. On August 2, 2017, we made it a reality. 

As described by the Helena Independent Record:

Commissioner Rob Farris-Olsen instigated research into the initiative which could provide paid time off for new parents in a variety of situations. Based on preliminary cost estimates provided by the human resources department, the plan gained support from all four commissioners and Mayor Jim Smith.

On average over the past five years, eight city employees, mothers or fathers, have had children per year, according to a report from city human resources director James Fehr. Providing paid parental leave is estimated to cost the city $9,500 per week offered if the average of eight employees requesting it per year stayed the same.

The parental leave would be open not only to mothers, but also fathers, adoptees of infants, foster parents of infants and same sex couples, Fehr said.

“There are a lot of overall benefits for the city and it’s employees with this,” he said. “It’s a great tool to attract and retain the most qualified employees. It also allows parents to bond with children and come back when they’re ready. It’s definitely a trend that is picking up momentum across the country.”

After discussion, city commissioners requested further research into the costs and effects of offering four weeks of paid parental leave at an estimated cost of $38,000 per year.

“Compared to the million we spent on increased personnel costs this year, offering this seems like a pretty minor impact on our budget,” Farris-Olsen said.

If elected, I will work to ensure all Montana families don't have to sacrifice their jobs to bond with their family.


Living Wages, Small Business, and the Environment

Just over two years ago, the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce asked me to sign a pledge opposing minimum wage increases or the creation of a living wage. The Chamber also wanted me to pledge to support business development at the expense of the environment.

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I'm proud to have rejected those requests then, and I will continue to work to ensuring that Montana's workers are paid sufficiently. Our workers are one of Montana's most valuable resources and we must make sure they are paid accordingly.

Our environment is another valuable resource that we can't ignore when making decisions about business. Instead we can promote economic growth while protecting our environment.  Our state employs 71,000 people in the recreation industry, which accounts for $7.1 billion in consumer spending. And counties with public lands attract people and jobs. These "public lands are helping to diversify Montana’s economy and fuel industries like outdoor recreation, and professional and technical services."* So economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand.

As a legislator, I will work to protect Montana's assets whether its workers or the environment. I hope I can count on your support. 



Excited to announce my campaign for HD 81!


Over the last eighteen months, I have loved serving Helena as a member of the City Commission. In my time we have made significant changes to improve Helena both socially and economically. But an opportunity has arisen, that I cannot turn away from – an open seat in the Legislature. When Janet Ellis decided to run for the Senate, House District 81 became an open seat for the 2018 election. The opportunity to serve at the state level is an exciting chance to further my mission of maintaining and improving our quality of life, for not just Helenans, but all Montanans.

During my time on the City Commission we made great strides forward. I worked with my fellow Commissioners on the following achievements:

  • Created a new rate structure to pay for more than $100 million of infrastructure needs. The new structure targets large commercial properties that have a disparate impact on our water, waster water, storm water and street infrastructure, while minimizing rate increases on residents. To protect this infrastructure, we hired an additional fire fighter and police officer.
  • Prioritized environmental protection and local businesses. I took action to protect businesses by protecting the Smith River, which brings in millions of dollars into Montana and Helena’s economies. I also changed our water rate structure to promote conservation. Most recently, we created a Citizen Conservation Board to guide the city in addressing climate change.
  • Promoted social justice. In January, we changed our non-discrimination ordinance to eliminate discriminatory language targeting the LGBT community. At the same time, our rate adjustments limit impacts on individuals with fixed incomes and we provided four weeks of paid parental leave to city employees. Now, we’re working to increase affordable housing.

If elected to legislature, I will bring a new energy. I will be a strong progressive voice for Helena by working towards economic equality, striving to provide jobs, fighting against corporate interests, protecting Montana’s environment, and advocating for our most vulnerable residents.

As a young professional, with a working family, and a small child, I have a unique understanding of how policy choices affect us all. I understand the needs of all Montanans for healthcare, living wages, and affordable post-secondary education. I also believe in preserving jobs in Helena, if we can’t preserve state jobs, we will struggle preserving our economy. That’s one reason why I’ve worked to increase the development of infrastructure, and hired additional police and fire personnel.

In the short time I’ve been running, I’ve already received some great endorsements. I am proud to have received the endorsement and support of: Jon Motl, former commissioner of political practices; DeeAnn Cooney, former district court judge; Janet Ellis, HD 81 State Representative; Mike Murray, former Lewis and Clark County Commissioner; and Katherine Hausrath, former City Commissioner.

I hope that I can count on your vote and that you will support my campaign with a donation.