On May 12, The Missoula County Democrats held their annual county convention to elect a new executive board. Three of the five new faces—Jason Wiener, Emily Brock and Roy Houseman—may not represent a new direction for the organization, but they certainly represent a change: the oldest is just 32.
“We were really excited about the infusion of youthful energy that came into the party in the past year,” says John Torma, 61, a member of the nominating committee. “And I know I personally—and I think I can speak for the executive board—really wanted to capitalize on that and cement the involvement of some of these younger folks within the local Democratic Party.”
None of the three is a stranger to politics. Wiener, 32, represents Ward 1 on the Missoula City Council. He was voted the committee’s new chairman. Brock, 28, a graduate student at the University of Montana, serves as the coordinator of Hellgate High School’s Flagship program. The new vice chair was heavily involved with Forward Montana’s campaign to drum up voters during the last presidential election. Houseman, also 28, was elected as the new alternate state committeeman. The president of the local steel workers’ union, Houseman is currently laid off from his job at Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.
Wiener says a large portion of the committee’s agenda will revolve around galvanizing support.
“I think one of the things that the new leadership brings is based on our experience with movement politics and not just electoral politics,” he says. “That includes the importance of working between elections to craft a message and deliver it, and to organize people when elections come. Parties are still about winning elections, and we’ll have the infrastructure in place to do it.”
Torma, a former alternate state committeeman, says he’s delighted to see the new generation take the reins.
“I was happy to serve on [the executive board] when I did,” he says. “But I’m overjoyed to pass the baton to somebody younger than myself who has the energy to do more of this than I do.”