by William Skink
Earlier this month, Ericka Fredrickson reported on the role of historians in preserving the history of the Covid crisis in real time. Since our County Commissioner, Dave Strohmaier, is also a historian, it was natural for him to spearhead this effort:
As a county commissioner who previously served two four-year terms on the Missoula City Council, Strohmaier is deeply engaged in public policy, but he’s also a historian who worked for Missoula’s Historical Research Associates for 13 years. He said he’s always looking for ways to expand the role of Missoula County in the stewardship of heritage resources. When COVID-19 began affecting Montana, he saw an opportunity, and a need.
“It occurred to me that this is the moment for public historians to step up,” he said.
So, with his historian hat on, Dave assembled a team to document this historical time in our local history:
With that idea in mind, Strohmaier put together a COVID collection team with the help of Alan Newell, a public historian active with downtown Missoula and UM projects, and Matt Lautzenheiser, executive director of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. The team includes UM’s Fredrickson (disclosure: the reporter’s brother); Donna McCrea, head of archives and special collections at the Mansfield Library; and Kalina Wickham, program director for the Downtown Missoula Partnership.
While this surface-level story about a seemingly well-intentioned effort by our County Commissioner, Dave Strohmaier, to document the history-making impacts of Covid is kinda interesting, I’m much more interested in what is NOT included in this article, and that’s the business relationship between Dave Strohmaier and Alan Newell.
Strohmaier’s bio at the County website includes this: Since 2015, he has been a partner in a digital technology firm called Three21 Innovations, which focuses on digital solutions for the humanities.
According to its website, Three21 Innovations does stuff like this:
Our network of professional historians and researchers develop compelling stories that showcase heritage and community resources. Through our apps, websites and other digital products, we can connect local history and provide community residents and travelers with an engaging, interesting and interactive experience.
Gee, does this sound like something local governments would spend money on? And, with that in mind, wouldn’t it be nice to have a historian who is ALSO an elected member of a local government?
While the physical location of Three21 Innovations appears to be in New Mexico, it looks like the business was incorporated in Florida. At this link, Newell’s role at this company is described as “managing partner”:
Alan brings his historical knowledge and his extensive business and project management experience to the Three21 Innovations team as its managing partner.
Now that this unreported business relationship between Missoula County Commissioner, Dave Strohmaier, and his business partner, Alan Newell, is out there for the public to scrutinize, it makes Dave’s epiphany that THIS IS THE MOMENT FOR PUBLIC HISTORIANS TO STEP UP seem a little self-serving.
If you are tired of self-serving politicians like Dave Strohmaier, your chance to return him to his historical roots will come in 2022.