Board Candidate 2019 / Voicing Our Values

Matt Kelly

June 14, 2019

Attorney, Tarlow Stonecipher Weamer & Kelly, PLLC Attorneys

(Bozeman, MT)

incumbent board member

What is your experience with Forward Montana, or our sister organization Forward Montana Foundation, and why is our work important to you?

I have served one term as a board member it is the most exciting and fulfilling work I have done.  The organization is amazing, has goals that line up with my priorities, challenges me to confront some of my ingrained beliefs, and allows me to contribute in a way that is meaningful in my community.

Prior to joining the board, I became interested in Forward Montana after meeting both Kiah Abbey and Meaghan Bailey. Their obvious talent and enthusiasm was infectious and I was driven to learn more. Soon after, I co-hosted the annual report tour and got an excellent education on the mission and activities of Forward Montana. My wife and I are converts and believe strongly the cliche that the younger generations truly are our future. This is true for chronological reasons and also because of the passionate idealism that exists in younger people. As the demographics continue to change in Montana it is clear that issues surrounding those changes will most affect young people. Developing and encouraging an educated and engaged demographic will drive better policy and a better Montana.

Why are you interested in joining the Forward Montana Board?

My enthusiasm for Forward Montana drives me to want to invest my time and resources in furthering its mission. I can and will be an asset to the Board and have a breadth of experiences that will be valuable to the organization.  The last term has been very exciting for me and has allowed me to make real contributions to the organization.  I feel that my history on the board will allow me to assist in some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities.

What skills, characteristics, experience, or insight do you have that would be a valuable addition to the board?

I currently am a partner in a small 7-lawyer law firm that has a general Montana practice. We focus on employment law, construction litigation, and natural resources law in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. This experience is important because I am constantly challenged to learn new skills, evaluate and act on opportunities, and react to a rapidly changing legal environment.

A large part of my law practice over the last few years has been representing large groups of landowners who are directly impacted by pipeline development in North Dakota. Along with another North Dakota law firm, I have organized and represented groups of landowners in their negotiations with oil companies. A recent matter involved 75 different landowners who collectively controlled 35 miles of the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Representing large groups in such emotional and serious situations is mostly a job of listening to concerns, analyzing options, managing expectations, and coaching the members into success. Those skills all translate to board service for organizations like Forward Montana.

What experience do you have fundraising, and what is your comfort level with asking for money?

I have extensive experience in organizing, managing, and operating a variety of different organizations. The first major experience I had in this realm was co-founding the Wyoming Conservation Corps. The WCC is similar in its mission to the more well-known Montana Conservation Corps but is structured very differently. My work in founding the WCC required 2 years of lobbying, travel, and relationship building across the entire state of Wyoming. Ultimately the WCC was founded from $500,000 in initial funding from the Wyoming legislature, with additional annual funding for three more years. From that point, we were able make the WCC self-sufficient (requiring no additional direct annual funding or donation) using a fee for service model and some grants from AmeriCorps. The WCC is doing work across Wyoming right now. My proudest accomplishment relating the WCC is that it is successful on its own – meaning that I have no continuing role with the organization other than proud founder. The process of creating the WCC was all consuming and gave me a crash course in relationship building with both private industry and government entities. I learned to successfully lobby the legislative and executive branches of state government. Finally, I learned the crucial skill of knowing when to let an organization become its own entity, fulfilling its initial mission and growing into something bigger based on the needs of the community.

Being a board member requires a time commitment to meetings, phone calls, occasional events, etc. Will you be able to fulfill these time commitments? Does anything give you pause?

I have the level of commitment needed to schedule time for FWT

Good board members invest their time into Forward Montana, are ambassadors for the organization, are familiar with the work of the organization, and are responsive to other board members and staff. How will you go above and beyond being a good board member? How will you be a great board member?

I have been able to follow along and participate in the last term and do not see any problem moving forward.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just that I love this organization and am excited to continue to serve.