Thank you for navigating to our Candidate Grading FAQ page to learn more about our process behind issuing grades to our candidates for Mayor and City Council.

The Billings Chamber would like to thank all of the candidates for submitting their questionnaire responses. More importantly, we thank all of the candidates for submitting their names into the ring of public opinion and running for elected office, an often thankless job.


What do the grades mean?

  • Our grades provide a representative snapshot into a candidate’s platform, and are meant to inform our membership on whether a candidate compliments or conflicts with the Billings Chamber’s priorities. This grade in no way reflects a candidate’s character, but rather their alignment with Chamber priorities and demonstration of well-thought solutions for issues facing Billings.
  • A = Actively supports the Chamber’s vision of business growth, displays deep understanding of local issues, and demonstrates enthusiastic community leadership.
    B = Aligns with the Chamber’s vision for business growth and understands local issues while demonstrating potential solutions.
    C = Cannot be counted on to consistently support Chamber priorities, or only demonstrates general awareness of local issues.
    D = Likely to work against the Chamber’s vision for business.
    F = Opposes Chamber’s vision, or failed to answer questionnaire.


What questions were the candidates asked?

  • A copy of the Billings Chamber’s Candidate Questionnaire can be found here.


How much time were candidates given to answer the questionnaire?

  • Candidates received the questionnaire via email on June 26th and one was hand delivered on June 27th, with a deadline of 5:00pm on July 14th. This gave the candidates over two weeks to read the Chamber’s Public Policy Guide, consult with Chamber staff or other community members about positions and solutions, and ultimately answer the questionnaire.


How did candidates know the Chamber Strategic Priorities and Public Policies?

  • Candidates received a copy of the Chamber’s Strategic Priorities attached at the end of the Candidate Questionnaire and were provided a digital copy of the Chamber’s Public Policy Guide. Candidates also had access to additional online and print resources if they chose to further investigate.


How were the candidates graded?

  • Candidates were graded primarily on their questionnaire answers, with exceptional scoring requiring Chamber policy agreement and well-thought solutions to issues facing the Billings community. Some consideration of demonstrable community leadership was also taken into account.
  • Candidates’ questionnaire answers were distributed to the 11 members of the Chamber’s Local Government Advisory Board. Each member graded answers individually and submitted those grades to be compiled and averaged with other members of the Advisory Board. While most scores were relatively similar between graders, there were a couple outliers of high and low scores. To account for this, the highest and lowest score for each candidate was eliminated, resulting in a more narrow range and more accurate average. And, although graders varied in their scoring, each grader was consistent with all candidates. Grades were then discussed and debated by the Advisory Board, resulting in a recommendation to the Chamber’s Board of Directors. The Chamber’s Advisory Board is confident in the fairness of evaluations due to the process of averaging multiple evaluations, elimination of high and low outliers, and Advisory Board discussion in which members had to defend their evaluations among peers.
  • After discussion of each candidate grade during the July 31st Board Meeting, the Chamber Board of Directors unanimously approved the recommended grades from the Advisory Board.


Why weren’t candidate answers graded anonymously?

  • Consideration was given to anonymous grading of answers. However, due to the relevancy of Question #1 (regarding candidate background info), and the conclusion that a candidate’s background matters (particularly leadership in the business community or a history of Chamber support while in office), the Billings Chamber decided it would be disingenuous to claim anonymity when many Advisory Board members doing the grading could deduce which background belonged to a particular candidate.


How can I find each candidate’s answers?

  • The Billings Chamber is not releasing each candidates’ answers. This decision was made partly because we did not inform candidates that we would share their answers with the public, and largely because we want our membership to engage in a dialogue with the candidates about their answers. Please use the Chamber’s Public Policy page to find candidate contact info.


How was the Advisory Board selected?

  • The Chamber’s Business Advocacy Department accepted applications through May 26th to fill new Local Government and State & Federal Government Advisory Boards. The Chamber Executive Committee recommended and the Chamber Board of Directors appointed the members of each board to serve a one- to two-year term, with applications accepted for open seats around June each year. The competitive application process brought many qualified applicants from the Billings business community, and resulted in the selection of exceptional business community leaders to each board.


Who sits on the Chamber’s Board of Directors?

  • The Chamber’s Board of Directors can be found here, and consists of exceptional community leaders with a passion for the Billings business community.
  • Bill Cole serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors and is running for mayor.
    • Mr. Cole has been excluded from every discussion and decision the Executive Committee or Chamber Board of Directors has made in regard to the selection of the Advisory Board, which was officially formed on June 13th. The Advisory Board has not worked with Mr. Cole since it was formed.
    • Mr. Cole has also been excluded from all discussions related to the candidate grading process. From the beginning discussion on questionnaire questions, throughout the evaluation process, and final approval of grades, Mr. Cole has been excluded from email and physical communications to ensure fairness.