I moved here when I was 2 years old. My Dad started as a traveling electrician and started Colstrip Electric in 1985. He always said he stopped here for gas money and still doesn’t have enough to leave. We’ve grown the business from 2 people and a couple of trucks we bought from the junkyard and turned in to our first work trucks, to between 150 and 200 electricians. We run 400 to 500 pieces of equipment every day, and have 5 offices in 3 states. And it all started right here in Colstrip.
I graduated from Montana State in Bozeman with a finance and economics degree, and never had intentions after graduation to move back to Colstrip. When I left high school and even when I graduated college I still didn’t really have intentions of coming back, but after we got out into the real world and worked for about 6 months in Missoula, my dad made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we moved back to Colstrip. And that was 16 years ago now.
As a family, we actually looked 7-8 years ago about moving because a lot of our business isn’t located around here any more. We looked around a half dozen different places and we just couldn’t find a better place to live. And that’s why we decided to stay here. Its a great place to raise the kids and it’s a good place for our kids to go to school as well.
I’m not saying there isn’t problems here, but they seem a lot smaller than in other places. My wife’s parent’s call it Pleasantville. There’s hardly any unemployment, not a lot of poverty. We employ between 15 and 20 people here in town. About 10% of our typical workforce is here.
What would I like people to know about Colstrip? I would say, if you haven’t been here, it’s hard to judge the town. And if you’re going to judge the town then you need to come here and meet the people and see the community. Don’t be quick to judge.
I’m from the western side of the state and when I met Brent and we came here and visited, I told him “promise me we will NEVER have to move here” and he said “We won’t! I don’t want to live here either!”
But then he was offered the job and I was starting to have health issues and became unable to work, so financially, it just made sense to move here where he had a steady job and we could live in a simple place where I could focus on my health. So, through the whole thing I ended up having a series of surgeries, I wasn’t dying, but there were some serious health issues that I was dealing with. I started to get it figured out, but then I had my son and it got worse and I wasn’t able to take care of him. The whole community came together and made me meals and they took care of my child. I’m going to start crying. But, I fell in love with the town. Because it’s not just a town. It’s a place that will pitch together and raise my child when I can’t. So, I wouldn’t leave. I’m here for life and I’m not leaving the people we have here. My heart is here forever.
It breaks my heart when I see what’s happening to this town and when I read what people say. They don’t know that there’s nowhere else like this. I mean, for months I couldn’t even go to the post office without someone there jumping to help me open the door. It’s a very unique place. And I see it with other people too, we all gang together. It’s not just me that has received help.
And with my children, even something like early out days [at school]. If I forget them I have five moms calling me saying “ I can take them home.” And the CPRD activities, and the walking paths, and this is the only place that I’ve found that the churches outnumber bars. And that is where I want to raise my children. And, Like Brent said, we’ve looked. We have looked to move. There are conveniences that we give up to be here and it’s sometimes hard, but I’d gladly give up a Walmart to have this community. I’ve never seen a community like Colstrip where we all pitch in together. We are a little bit isolated here, so we treat each other like family here.
So that’s my story. I will fight tooth and nail to save our town for the future of my children. This is what I want them to see and whether they choose to live here or not, I just want them to see this place to help build them up to be who I want them to be.