E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (0) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
Columbia Falls City Council Q & A
Columbia Falls
Five candidates are running for three seats on the six-member council. Voting takes place on Nov. 8. Contact the Flathead County Election Department at (406) 758-2422 with any questions.

The Columbia Falls city council candidates were asked the following four questions:

1. Why are you running and what makes you a strong candidate?
2. What do you feel are the most pressing issues facing the city and why?
3. What would you like to see happen with the Historic Red Bridge?
4. How can the council aid economic recovery in Columbia Falls?

Name: Darin Fisher
Age: 34
Occupation: Trails Technician
Years in the valley: 3

1. My wife Carla and I moved to the valley three years ago and after scouting several different areas in the valley we decided Columbia Falls was the type of town in which we wanted to settle. After getting involved with local organizations and community projects, attending council meetings, and getting to know our neighbors and the local businesses, I felt that joining the city council would be a way to get more involved in the community. Even though I am still new to Columbia Falls I feel attached to the community and I want to see it continue to thrive. I believe I have the necessary critical thinking skills and can bring a fresh perspective to the council.

2. Columbia Falls is in transition and it needs to have a plan for where it wants to be and what it wants to be 10 years from now. The historic sources of economic growth in Columbia Falls have shifted and the city needs to balance the need for short-term economic boosts with the need for long-term planning.

3. I would like to see the Historic Red Bridge restored and preserved. There are obvious hurdles, most of them monetary, to restoring the bridge. However, the bridge is an important landmark to the town of Columbia Falls and I’d like to see the city, county, and other interested parties come together and find a way to preserve it.

4. The council can aid economic recovery in Columbia Falls by being a strong proponent of small local businesses and a strong partner for local volunteer and advocacy groups. The council also needs to remain focused on long-term goals, utilizing our location to enable Columbia Falls to develop into a destination for both tourism and businesses as a gateway to Glacier, while also retaining its unique character as a small, hardworking, Montana town.

Name: Samantha Johnson
Age: 29
Occupation: Public Relations at Outside Media
Years in the valley: 7

1. I am running for city council because I love this town. This is something I want to do because I care a great deal about its future and I want to be a part of its success. I appreciate this town’s heritage of hard work, honesty and family. I feel that I have a responsibility to offer constructive solutions to preserve this heritage.

I will bring an open mind, strong leadership skills and a forward-moving focus. If Columbia Falls is going to thrive, we need a long-term plan. Even in a down economy, there is an energetic and positive vibe here that we need to tap.

2. Jobs. What Columbia Falls needs is a clear plan for economic recovery, business recruitment and a vision to attract new business and enhance the existing. Too often I hear of friends who live in Columbia Falls but have to commute elsewhere for work. Columbia Falls has everything it needs for businesses to succeed: a talented workforce, infrastructure, community support and the best location in the valley!

3. The Historic Red Bridge restoration is something I believe in. It is critically important because it is a major landmark and should connect us. This community wants to save the red bridge. It’s not just a bridge – it is a piece of our history and it is important to the entire valley, not just Columbia Falls.

It is a big project and no entity can take this on alone – everyone involved needs to work together. The community, city council and the county need to commit and get on the same page because together it is doable.

The long-term benefits and opportunities the bridge could draw are appealing for Columbia Falls and the valley residents. A trail system, wave park and safe connecting trails add to the economic opportunities, recreational choices and overall quality of life in Columbia Falls.

4. The city council can adopt a long-term economic recovery plan to lay a blueprint for economic prosperity. There are resources like Montana West Economic Development and other groups that promote business expansion and recruitment programs. The council needs to lead the charge in creativity and business opportunities to create a strong business climate.

Let’s talk about the amazing businesses already here and use them as role models and pillars of our community to lead the way for others to either start their own business or relocate here. The city council can lead the way for this to happen. Anyone who has heard of Columbia Falls knows that we’re experiencing a renaissance in a down economy. We need to build on that momentum.

Name: Harvey Reikofski, Jr.
Age: 61
Occupation: Truck Mechanic
Years in the valley: 27

1. After having served for over eight years on council, I feel that I have developed a good working relationship with other council members. The conservative approach of the council has proven to help keep the city of Columbia Falls in a positive financial position. I will continue to keep this approach if elected.

2. The most pressing issues facing the council are maintaining services while facing a downturn in revenue. At the same time, we need to plan for needed repairs to our infrastructure and how to pay for those repairs.

3. The red bridge is basically in limbo at this point, the estimated cost to repair has dramatically increased and the money needed to repair it has not been raised. I would like to see the bridge repaired and put to good use for the public benefit. If, however, First Best Place cannot come up with the funding to cover the cost of repairs, the county should remove it.

4. By working with groups like Montana West Economic Development and Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce, the city council can look for ways to attract new businesses to our area. This is not a new approach but a renewed focus for members of the city council.

Name: Julie Plevel
Age: 57
Occupation: Real Estate Broker
Years in the valley: 19

1. I’m running for reelection because I enjoy serving my community. I believe I bring a strong skill set to the council in the areas of land use, common sense and the ability to see both sides of the issues.

2. As with most communities across the state and nation in these economic times, staying within our budget and continuing to provide services is always at the top of the list. Columbia Falls has a tradition of living within our means, so we are simply staying on track with past years. We have exceptional staff in all of our departments who work efficiently, which in turn saves the taxpayers money.

3. I think if it were feasible to save the Historic Red Bridge, it would be a wonderful thing to do. However, the costs appear prohibitive. Some of us are trying to think of ways to at least salvage a portion of the bridge and perhaps move it to a different location, possibly within our parks system for reuse. Right now, that’s just in the idea stage, though.

4. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that less government is better government. Economic recovery should rest with the private sector, in my opinion. Columbia Falls has always been flexible and responsive to the business community.

Name: Doug Karper
Age: 59
Occupation: Maintenance School District 6
Years in the valley: 26
No picture provided.

1. Ever since I moved here 26 years ago I’ve been involved in city activities, such as the chamber of commerce, Heritage Days, economic development and the city-county planning board. I have a passion for serving my community. My broad experience, conservative fiscal position and basic common sense make me a strong candidate.

2. Staying fiscally conservative, keeping our infrastructure up to par (streets, water, sewer, parks) and jobs.

3. If there were adequate private funding available I would support restoration. However, I am not willing to spend tax dollars on it.

4. The council can aid economic recovery by being supportive of the business community in general and by making it as easy to do business here as possible without putting at risk the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. Columbia Falls is a great place to live and raise a family and I will do my best to keep it that way.
No comments have been posted for this article.

Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown9h
"If we made decisions on permits this way in MT, our economy would grind to a halt" @GovernorBullock on #KeystoneXL delay
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish7h
Montana leaders sound off on Keystone XL delay http://t.co/H1Z6oRtfis #mtnews #mtpol
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy7h
@natashavc @TaraAriano @allyzay Oh no, I've been thinking it's a room for all your types of mustards. Recalibrating my ideas now.
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott2h
@tristanscott *Billie Joe
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines8h
Baucus Casts Wide Shadow Over Montana Senate Race http://t.co/KATSG942LL