Roger Millar earned his beer. It’s quitting time on Thursday, Feb. 1, and the new director of Missoula’s Office of Planning and Grants (OPG) just completed his fourth day on the job. As he sits down to a pint of Fat Tire at a downtown pub, he seems content, if a bit weary near the end of a week consumed by a new regimen of meetings, new faces and a new town.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s been good,” Millar says.
Millar, 47, is a “passionate” fly fisherman who easily passes for an average Missoulian, with a full beard, rosy cheeks and silver hair. His family—wife Stephanie and two young children—are finishing out the school year in McCall, Idaho, where Millar most recently worked as deputy city manager, so Millar’s temporarily on his own, renting a small apartment until his family joins him in June.
Millar brings with him a wealth of planning experience, both private and public, in communities ranging from small boom-town McCall to Portland, Aspen and Chicago. He says taking the helm at Missoula’s planning office excites him because “this is a place that’s done things right” in crafting a livable town, and he looks forward to furthering the effort. Planning in Missoula should mean focusing on what we want, not frantically forestalling what we don’t, he says, and he thinks OPG’s joint city-county governance presents the perfect opportunity to do that.
Millar isn’t settled in enough yet to reflect on the fierce controversies that growth generally and OPG specifically generate in Missoula, but he’s got an interesting outsider’s take on the challenges locals routinely debate.
“Every successful community I’ve worked in feels that way about itself [bogged down by controversy],” he says. “But 99 percent of the people on this planet would love to have Missoula’s problems.”
That surfeit of concern for shaping an ideal Missoula is one reason Millar came here: “I’d rather work someplace where people care enough to shout than a place where people have given up.”