Team Bear Paw

Let's do something great together!

At Bear Paw Development, we're passionate about driving economic growth and vitality across Northern Montana. Our team of dedicated professionals, led by our experienced executive director, works tirelessly with businesses, organizations, and communities to create and implement innovative strategies that accelerate growth and foster prosperity. From business development to finance, marketing to community outreach, our team members bring a diverse range of expertise to the table. We're committed to working collaboratively to achieve our mission of building thriving communities and businesses throughout Montana. Join us on this exciting journey of transformation and growth!

Paul Tuss

Executive Director
Paul has been the Executive Director of Bear Paw Development since November of 2000. He was born and raised in Montana and has lived in Havre for over 20 years. As the Executive Director he supervises all Bear Paw staff and serves as the spokesperson for our corporation. Paul is driven to make northern Montana a better place to live for everyone and cultivates that same attitude in everyone he works with. Paul serves as a member of the Montana House of Representatives, is a diehard Griz fan and enjoys skiing, hunting and hiking in his spare time.

Stefnie Redding

Deputy Director/Finance Officer
Stefnie has been with Bear Paw since March of 2017. As the Director of Operations, Stef is responsible for the ongoing financial accounting of the organization. She provides administrative support for the departments and acts as the right hand of the Executive Director. Stef loves driving through our communities and being able to see the economic impacts that Bear Paw has had over the years. Her favorite past times are spending time outdoors with her family and dogs as well as reading, shopping, and decorating.

Sara Strissel

Director of Community Planning and Brownfields
Sara has been a member of the Bear Paw Development team since December of 2020. In her Community Planning position, Sara assists local governments with grant writing and project management for planning documents, architectural reports, feasibility studies, and various other projects. As Director of Brownfields, Sara also works with local property owners and the EPA to assess underused properties for hazardous building materials and petroleum contamination and assists in securing funding to abate and redevelop these properties. In her spare time, Sara can be caught kayaking the Marias River, cheering on the Griz or going on random road trips around Montana with her husband Jake and daughter Addie.

Joe LaPlante

Director of Small Business Development Center
Joe has been a member of the Bear Paw Development team since July of 2006. He helps entrepreneurs start or expand their small business, teaches classes on QuickBooks and Excel, and offers trainings on Customer Service and Social Media strategies. In his spare time Joe enjoys watching movies, geocaching, and eating his favorite snack — theater popcorn.

Trish Cichosz

Director of Loan Services
Trish has been with Bear paw since January of 2021. As the Director of Loan Services Trish works with potential borrowers to obtain business financing, reviews loan applications, and supervises the loan portfolio. She loves helping communities and businesses grow and enjoys the friends she has made in her coworkers. In her free time you can find Trish curled up with a good book or playing softball with her husband and friends.

Chris Partin

Loan Specialist
Chris came to Bear Paw in April of 2023 joining our Loan Department as a Loan Specialist. His role involves providing assistance to the Loan Department in all capacities. When he's not at work, Chris enjoys riding his Harley and repurposing trash into treasures as a hobby. One of his favorite quotes is by Albert Pike: “A good man will find that there is goodness in the world; an honest man will find that there is honesty in the world; and a man of principal will find principal and integrity in the hearts of others.” Chris also loves the movie Fight Club and finds inspiration from his Brothers in Freemasonry.

Julea Robbins

Director of Community Development
Julea joined the Bear Paw Team in February of 2022. As the Director of Community Development, she has the opportunity to help our communities and local governments build new and revitalize old critical infrastructure through grant writing and management. Julea has lived on the Hi-line most of her life and her love for rural Montana runs deep. In her spare time, Julea can be found camping in the Bear Paws, dabbling in graphic design, and hanging out with her husband Colton and daughter Ellie.

Emilee Luke

Community Development Specialist

Emilee joined the Bear Paw family in December of 2023. As a Community Development Specialist, Emilee works closely with the Director of Community Development to write and manage grants for infrastructure needs in the local and surrounding communities, making positive impacts as much as possible. Born in Italy, Emilee grew up as a military brat but spent most of her childhood in Alaska and Colorado. After completing college degrees in Alabama, she moved to Havre in 2020 where she gets to enjoy photographing the beautiful state of Montana, travelling often, and playing in the best band on the Hi-Line."

Josh Gomez

Director of the Food and Ag Development Center

Josh joined Bear Paw in October of 2022.  As the Director of the Food and Ag Development Center Josh works to help Montanans innovate and grow businesses that produce and commercialize food, agricultural and renewable energy products and processes, creating wealth and jobs in our communities and on our farms and ranches. Josh has 20 years of military service, including in the U.S. Army and Montana Army National Guard.  Josh enjoys fishing and hanging out with his wife Laura in his down time.

Building Partnerships for Community and Economic Development

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300 Second Avenue
P.O. Box 170, Havre, MT 59501