Allow me to preface that I’ve lived my entire adult life in the Flathead Valley and this fact may present a bias to my claim, but I don’t think it diminishes it. This area is comprised of an inordinate number of people who are civically minded. I find that everyone I know, or sort of know, is involved in their community in a myriad of ways and I believe this desire for engagement is unique.
Most folks I know serve on at least one board, be it a local nonprofit, or a government board, and they certainly devote time to volunteer. These people are not retirees either, although there are retirees in the Flathead who somehow manage to ski an impressive number of days and have time to raise money and awareness for important causes. My friends, who hold down busy jobs and have a family, contribute their time (what’s left of it) and talents to worthy and essential causes that help make our community a vibrant, safe, fun, inclusive, and healthy place to live. They’re not doing this to pad their resume. They feel a true calling to civic engagement, to participate in this life, whether that means commenting on public transportation plans, running for public office, volunteering to build local trails, or advocating for those who need it most. This valley is filled with people who are inspired to give, and they possess a dedication to civic duty, a virtue that often goes unnoticed. Or perhaps, unappreciated, but this doesn’t lessen its impact.
Civic duty and participation is a foundation of democracy, and sadly these terms get thrown around carelessly, especially on a national political scene. But to me, they are substantive. It’s a privilege to participate in democracy, and it’s a privilege to build a community, which does mean devoting those precious hours to long meetings, reading policy briefs, or asking for money. What I’ve learned here as I’ve grown into adulthood is that the Flathead Valley is an incubator for civic leaders. It’s a place that calls upon us to step up, get involved, and have an important say in what matters to us, what matters to our neighbors.
This is a place unique in its physical landscape and I would argue in the level of commitment by its stakeholders: you and me who stay engaged, who want positive change, who want good things to happen to our friends, our families, and our towns. Your duty does not go unnoticed. Thank you.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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