Great Falls’ Cult Of ‘Believe Or Go Away’


In an article I wrote last week called ‘Mr. Narrative Comes To Great Falls’ I discussed the bogus notion that a ‘negative narrative’ is the reason that Great Falls continues to struggle to remain stagnant. In that piece I referenced the local Future of the Falls young professionals group and their upcoming event, BaseCamp.

As I said then and will say again, I appreciate and applaud the hard work being done by the volunteers in Future of the Falls even though I am dubious about the motives and extent of involvement by the original organizers of the group – Mayor Bob Kelly and Commissioner Mayor Moe.

Subsequently several current and former participants in the group have contacted me to express their opinions about my article and the Future of the Falls/BaseCamp organization. All of them said basically the same thing – the group went from ‘several hundred’ participating in forums last year to the current number of around 35 because many participants were disappointed in the goals and mission of the effort as pushed by Moe and Kelly.

…the group went from ‘several hundred’ participating to the current number of around 35 because they were disappointed in the ultimate goals and mission of the effort as pushed by Moe and Kelly.

Here’s an example of an email I received and have permission to publish on the condition that the sender remains anonymous, for obvious reasons:


First, I wish to remain anonymous but your latest piece hit me where I live, if you know what I mean. I was at the FoTF (Future of the Falls) events initially and this is how it ended. I came away with a strong sense of disappointment that never recovered.

I invite you to look into the attendance numbers from the FoTF events right up until the real agenda was revealed and anyone not committed enough was invited not to return. As I remember it, there was significant support at that last meeting from many “young professionals” to continue with the FoTF forums and form the Basecamp group as a sub-committee for anyone interested but Moe saw it differently — “a cloud” as she says.

As such, it’s my impression that the entire thing was simply a screen for her ultimate goal: this Basecamp event. Only time will tell, and I do think Basecamp could be a good thing for the community, but as for the FoTF, I think we can safely say that the summit was the end game.

I felt this was relevant to your last piece so, without further ado, here’s how it ended:”

Following is the content of the email Commissioner Mary Moe sent to the October 2018, forum participants

“Dear Ones,

I am writing to confirm that we will meet next Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. in the same room to plan the “summit” or whatever we’re going to call it.  I am really excited about the potential of this event. I am even more excited about the prospect of seeing all of you roll out your potential and your considerable talents to plan and deliver it.

But mainly I am writing to follow up on the feeling that was in the room last night, a cloud I tried to push away with my closing comments. Although I think the discussion we had last night had to happen, I worry that many of you found it discouraging. Heck, I found it discouraging. But I never stay discouraged for long because I learned a long time ago only one person can keep me down. And that’s me. That’s as true of communities as it is of individuals.

You asked last night to see the feedback from the forums. I am attaching the spreadsheet I created for the feedback from the first one.  I altered it slightly last night to protect the confidentiality of the commenters, but otherwise it’s the same document recording the take-aways people had as they left the forum into the October sunset. If you do nothing else between now and next Wednesday, look through those take-aways. You will conclude what I still believe: The one thing that binds this group together is not a interest in economic development or a distaste for the way “the city” does things. It’s a thirst for a more positive conversation in Great Falls, a more positive self-image, a more positive message that we send to visitors and new arrivals and to each other about who we are. And the second take-away is also worth remembering: There is an “ah” of relief that almost bounces off the spreadsheet: “I’m not alone! So many other people feel like I do!”

That’s where we need to start. That’s what we’re trying to build on with the summit. As I tried to convey last night with my “not getting married” comment, the summit isn’t the end game. But, boy, it sure is a good way to throw the first pitch. Great Falls has a great story to tell, and a lot of people want to know about it and figure out how they can be a part of it. Like all good stories, it has a lot of subplots and characters, and the summit is a way of not only telling the story but pulling people into it in the way they choose. Let’s engage in a little show-and-tell.

Believe. And if you don’t, no offense intended, but please don’t come next week. We have work to do.

Mary” (Emphasis added)

I suppose one could ignore that the “Dear Ones” greeting sounds downright cult-like if it weren’t for the last line in Moe’s email which actually is cultish – believe, or don’t bother coming back? What? I’m sorry Dear Leader Moe, that is really weird.

It’s also troubling that Moe seems completely oblivious to the reality that a lack of “economic development” and a genuine “distaste for the way the city does things” is precisely the reason there is a negative narrative here.

Trying to treat the symptom rather than addressing the cause is a fools errand. But Moe and Kelly aren’t fools. They understand perfectly well that by claiming that the boogie man is a “negative narrative” rather than failed leadership, they can deflect attention away from their own incompetence, cronyism and neglect.

Now here’s the good news.

Mike Bicsak, the sponsorship coordinator for the upcoming BaseCamp event, posted this on the comment thread on E-City Beat’s FB page concerning the article I wrote after he and I had a good conversation about the subject of partnering with city commissioners or the City of Great Falls.

“I had a very nice chat with Rick today over coffee. After this Facebook discussion I had a talk with a few other members of the Future of the Falls and we have decided that we will be proceeding on our own in the future.

Although there has been no wrong doing by anyone regarding BaseCamp or Future of the Falls, we agree that we can’t have the perception that we are puppets or pawns to anyone’s political agenda.

Good talk, Rick. Thanks again.”

And thank you too, Mike. I encourage everyone to check out the BaseCamp event on May 18th from noon to 6:00 PM at the Civic Center.



Posted by Rick Tryon

Rick Tryon is an entrepreneur, a singer-songwriter, and is currently serving a four year term as a Great Falls City Commissioner. Helping Montana become an even greater place to live, play and work is Tryon's passion.

Reader interactions

4 Replies to “Great Falls’ Cult Of ‘Believe Or Go Away’”

  1. I was a ‘guest’ (too old!) at the Future of the Falls event in the Civic Center. I was favorably impressed by the number of young women and men who came out for the event. While observing, it was not what I had expected, but I wasn’t the organizer so I just watched.

    Rick and I have had our differences over the years about the ‘narrative’ and what I call Great Falls’ inferiority complex. That’s not the point of this comment.

    Instead, I am wondering if Rick can flesh out the details a bit more. From the article, I am not really sure what is the point of all this, or what Rick thinks the point is. Apparently, he believes that Commissioner Moe has an agenda here, and I do not understand the references to the “cloud” in the room. Can you fill this in a little bit for us?


    1. Gregg, you’re not sure what the point is in writing about a city commissioner and mayor who think that a ‘negative narrative’ is the problem we have to solve in Great Falls rather than the reasons behind the ‘negative narrative’?

      It’s my understanding that the ‘cloud’ being referred to arose from the folks attending the forums who understood that pretending to address Great Falls’ problems by trying to change a ‘negative narrative’ was a waste of their time.


  2. Wasn’t trying to challenge the point. I think it is possible to believe both things: We have real problems in local government AND Great Falls suffers from an inferiority complex. Don’t be so prickly: when I said “I am not sure what the point of all this is, or what Rick thinks the point is,” I was talking about the dust up, not your article. I thought that was clear, but apparently it wasn’t.

    I am just trying to figure out why this has died out. I THINK that what you are suggesting is that, rather than try to actually improve things, this group is being maneuvered instead to create a narrative that doesn’t look at problems in city government. Since I know two of the “young professionals” who were involved, I guess I will just ask them.


    1. Not trying to be prickly, my friend. I think the Future of the Falls group is doing good work.

      But, yes I do think it’s clear that Moe and Kelly wanted to manipulate the group for their own PR/political purposes and as a deflection from the actual challenges GF faces, which our city commission seems unwilling or unable to address.


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