Missoula's new Parking Commission Director is no stranger to the job, or to the Parking Commission itself.

Starting March 1, Rod Austin, long-time Missoula resident, will take the reins of the Missoula Parking Commission, following the retirement of Anne Guest. Austin is the former chairman of the parking commission board.

"She used to tell me I was the most involved board chair she ever had, Austin said of the departing Anne Guest. "I learned a lot from her, and really enjoyed the work."

Austin will have to take over the difficult task of getting Missoula drivers to trust the new 'Luke' parking meters.

"I think Missoula is kind of a 'lab', so to speak, because the software for that is still in its infancy, and I think its just a matter of working through it. I don't see it as anything that can't be worked out. In fact, I think that things are getting better every day. I'm not sure if people are aware of it, but with the Luke machines, you can put money in one location and carry that time with you to other locations, so it's not like you're leaving money in the meters."

Austin addressed the question of whether the Missoula downtown area would be better off without parking meters at all.

"I think its all about parking turnover," he said. "Business owners appreciate the fact that the parking meters are vacated every couple of hours. If there were no meters, I think people who work downtown would just take those on-street spaces and park there all day."

Austin said even though the former director, Anne Guest, did a very good job, there are some improvements he'd like to tackle.

"One of the things I'd like to work on is possibly doing a better job of snow removal in the on-street parking when we get snow," Austin concluded. "It's kind of a big hurdle to get over, but it's definitely something that needs to be looked at."

Austin was a very active part of downtown Missoula for 12 years, serving on the boards of the Missoula Downtown Association and the Missoula Parking Commission and as president of the MDA board and chair of the Parking Commission board.