Trading snow for sunshine
Farewell to the Fire Chief and Big Sky’s first attorney
She grew up in Florida; he grew up in Michigan. She is not your typical attorney and he is not your run-of-the-mill fire chief. Big Sky brought them together – and their individual contributions to the community may never fully be grasped.
Big Sky Fire Department Chief William Farhat and attorney Mindy Cummings will soon be enjoying the Florida sunshine. Farhat will have an office job and will no longer be tied to an emergency pager. Due to his responsibilities in the community and the need for his rapid response in an emergency, simple luxuries – like riding a bicycle or hiking without stress – have eluded him.
“People don’t realize that being a fire chief of a community is a big responsibility,” he said. He said he consistently gets up in the middle of the night to check his pager – worrying about the community and his coworkers and friends.
“This is a different step for me that maybe allows me to have a little bit better quality of life outside of work,” he said, explaining how he plans to ride his bike to work. “I can do that because I won’t have this emergency responsibility. I’m looking forward to working on health, fitness and work-life balance.”
He is to be the Fire Marshal for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida – the eighth largest school district in the U.S. with more than 215,000 students in over 200 schools.
This is a newly created position and one of many steps by the state to further student and employee safety in the wake of the Feb. 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Before Big Sky, Farhat worked at the University of Notre Dame where he was in charge of fire protection and detection systems.
“Being out here was also wonderful,” Farhat said. “In Big Sky it’s always different because of the unincorporated challenge – because of all the government and non governmental entities,” he said.
As fire chief, Cummings said her husband has to always be “on” and some people in the community do not know his astounding wit – a sense of humor that earned him a place of distinction amongst her friends. In fact, Cummings’ hometown friends have a group text with one surprise member – Farhat.
“They think he is hysterical,” she said.
As for her own path in Big Sky, Cummings’ legal resume is extensive: private practice, then working in house for Big Sky Owners Association, Moonlight Basin, then Lone Mountain Land Company, then back to private practice. She has been general council for Big Sky Community Organization for the past 13 years. For a long time, she was the only attorney in Big Sky who lived and worked in Big Sky.
She served on the Gallatin County Planning and Zoning Commission for six years and before that she was on the local advisory committee for seven years.
“As I get older, I really enjoy land use planning. I’ve worked for a lot of developers and I’d like to think that… I mean growth is inevitable, but I don’t think it has to be done poorly,” she said.
When she was at university seeking a degree in anthropology, specializing in archaeology, her archaeological sites were being destroyed. Angry and impassioned, she altered her path and went to law school. She was a visiting student at the University of Montana when she earned an additional certification in environmental land use law. She admits that environmental law remains her passion.
She did what she had to do to make it in the Big Sky community: she was a waitress, cleaned houses, refinished decks, was “shop bitch” at East Slope Anglers – and this was all when she had her law degree.
The entrepreneurial spirit of Big Sky is strong, she said.
“I hope I have given to Big Sky as much as Big Sky has given to me. It’s a pretty special place,” Cummings said.
Next on her docket is to finish her master’s degree in urban and regional planning as she raises 10 year old twin boys – boys Farhat loves as his own.
Farhat sang the praises of his colleagues at the fire department and commended their ability to adapt with the “steep pace of change” of Big Sky.
“They had to grow with the community,” he said. Overall, he describes his time in Big Sky as interesting and fun.
“I’ve met a lot of great people here. I’m going to miss a lot of people,” he said.