Bozeman city commissioners appointed Christopher Coburn to fill the vacant seat on the commission on Tuesday, April 6. Coburn is much younger than his colleagues and is the first Black and openly gay person to sit on the Bozeman City Commission. 

“As a commissioner who is closer to the age of most people who call Bozeman home, I hope to foster a new type of engagement with folks and make the process of how our local government works and what commissioners do as well as how people can use their voices and expertise in a way to contribute to the commission,” Coburn said. The issues most pressing to Coburn include the affordable housing crisis, climate change and making the community more equitable, in addition to continuing to move through and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Coburn also hopes to increase the engagement of younger people in local government.

Coburn originally sought a seat on the commission, along with 20 other people, during the appointment process this past October to fill the vacant spot left after the resignation of former Mayor, Chris Mehl, but lost to Jennifer Madgic. This time around, Coburn was the only candidate after former state legislator Tom Woods withdrew his bid during general public comment at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Woods said several recent actions of the state legislature, such as legislation targeting transgender youth, influenced his decision to resign. “The best course of action for this community is for me to step aside and have a person of color who is also a member of the LGBTQ community to lead us out of these dark times,” Woods said. “I feel, however, that the best way forward for this community and for the progressive movement to coalesce is for me to withdraw from consideration for the city commission.” 

Aside from holding a seat on the city commission, Coburn also serves on the Gallatin County Board of Health and works for Bozeman Health. He explained the importance of the Health Board during the pandemic. “We have been responsible for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in really profound ways,” Coburn said. “Being a part of this group has given me the experience of working on a high functioning, high stress and high consequence board.” Coburn is also involved in a variety of community projects, ranging from increasing access to mental health services to establishing housing models to help people experiencing homelessness.

Coburn was raised in Missoula and his family has lived in Montana for six generations. “As a person who is from Montana and who has lived in Montana most of my life, I was raised in a way where I understand the shared values we have as a community and the things that Montanans really care about,” Coburn said. “I think that is very important to being able to work with folks who love this place as much as I do.”

Coburn addressed the fact that “even though I am a former Grizzly,” as he attended graduate school in Missoula, “I am 100% committed to MSU and the Bobcats.” You can follow Coburn on Instagram or Facebook @coburnforbozeman.