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Published May 25, 2021

The National Association of Counties (NACo) named Missoula County as a recipient of a 2021 Achievement Award in recognition of the county’s effort to establish the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.

NACo recognized the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority in the Transportation category.  The Authority, which Missoula County spearheaded in the spring of 2020,iscomprisedof 13 partner counties across Montana who represent diverse geographies, economies and politics, all with the same goal: restoring passenger rail service to the southern tier of the state.

“We’re extremely honored to receive this award on behalf of the member counties of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, recognizing their leadership in creating the first regional passenger rail authority in Montana,” Missoula County Commissioner and Authority Chair  Dave Strohmaier said.  “We hope that what we’ve accomplished in Montana will inspire other counties across the nation to work together on big goals, bridging the ideological and geographic and rural-urban divides that too often split us apart.”

Establishing the rail authority created the governance structure to seek and accept funding for implementation of long-distance inter-city rail service across southern Montana, which likely would not be possible if any one county pursued the initiative on its own. This partner approach connects our rural communities with larger urban cities across Montana and welcomes a spirit of culture and diversity, which strengthens the Authority’s purpose to preserve and improve abandoned rail service for agriculture, industry or passenger traffic and to preserve the abandoned railroad right-of-way for future transportation uses.

“Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership,” NACo President Gary Moore said.  “This year’s Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, risk and emergency management, transportation, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier is available for media inquiries at


Dave Strohmaier  |  Missoula County Commissioner  |  Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority Chair  |