I was born in Bozeman and educated in towns and cities across Montana starting in Moccasin and graduating from Great Falls HS. I left in 1984 to pursue an education and a career in New York City as an environmental social scientist. That was also the year my parents moved from Great Falls to Billings. In 2012 I came back for my dad’s 80th birthday and realized if I wanted to spend time with my parents, I needed to come back to Montana as soon as possible. I spent the next six years as primary caregiver for Ray and Doris Choriki and I hope I gave them some joy and comfort in their final years. Among the gifts I received from them was a sense of responsibility for the community where I live, the understanding that outcomes matter more than intentions or beliefs, and that you always try to leave a place better than you found it.
During the decades I lived in NYC, I was a student, a policy analyst, an information technology expert, and a consultant on how information and decisions flow within organizations (process engineering). Because of these experiences I view the world and the human experience as a set of systems. I am trained in analyzing complex problems in search of root causes. And like any good shade “tree mechanic”, after analysis, I kept testing possible solutions, and didn’t stop until the problem was fixed.
We live in a time when we are just starting to understand the complexity of life and how to use that understanding to make the lives of as many people as possible better than they were. In many ways, this has been my life’s work. Our grandparents understood that we need to be guided by what works and not blinded by ideology. I try to live by that standard. When we see a problem, we try to analyze the cause of the problem and try to fix it. If the first thing you do doesn’t work, analyze what happened, come up with a new plan and try that. Ideology is easy and often comforting. But it is the outcomes that matter.
Why I'm running for office
We are living in a time of intense emotions about policy, politics and the future path the American culture and nation will be taking. From the decline of the middle class to the existential threat of global warming, we are faced with problems and decisions which are for most, if not all of us, overwhelming.
IMHO, the biggest threat is the increased reliance of emotion in our public decision making and the marginalizing of reasoned discourse and measurable outcomes and data. Two generations ago we were a people willing to take on any challenge from fighting fascism and rebuilding and protecting a world devastated by a global industrial war to putting a person on the moon. Today, we point fingers, deny the existence of a problem, call each other names and shout at each other.
In the winter of 2015, I presented a talk at TEDxBillings about how fear is coming to dominate our political discourse. As our understanding of the world has become more complicated and nuanced, our discourse is more emotional and limited to 140 characters.
In this context, I step back into public political life to try to bring the discourse back to reason and data. I am trying to bring the tools of analysis I learned in graduate school, as a policy analyst and as a business analyst to the public sphere.
The process is simple. Identify a problem. Research and analyze the root cause of the problem. Decide on an appropriate outcome among stakeholders. Develop a plan to address the problem and enable the desired outcome. Test to see if your solution works. If it did, great. Monitor to make sure it continues to work. If not, take what you have learned and return to step. Repeat as necessary.
This isn’t left or right. It isn’t conservative or liberal. It isn’t capitalist or socialist. It is science and the business of management applied to social issues. It works and has worked for decades in American and global businesses. We need to bring it to the public realm.
The first step is to stop screaming at each other and trying to impose our ideology on each other. The first step is to talk to each other calmly. And listen.
I am running for office because we need to listen to each other and work together to find solutions to some very serious problems.