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Election Guide 2013
With ballots in the mail, the 2013 election is officially underway
Graphic by Steve Larson | Flathead Beacon
KALISPELL
It’s not only about the city airport. The upcoming municipal election on Nov. 5 features eight candidates contending for Kalispell’s City Council, a majority of whom are new faces, including the lone mayoral contender.

Flathead County Fairgrounds is hosting the city’s polling station inside its Trade Center. Voting will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Absentee ballots were mailed this week and can be returned from now until Election Day.

The city of Kalispell tweaked its ward districts last year and residents are encouraged to visit www.kalispell.com to check the new boundaries. For questions about the election, call the Flathead County Election Department at 758-5535.

The city’s governing body could undergo a noticeable transformation after this election. There’s the possibility for four new members on the nine-person council.

Mark Johnson, a financial advisor who was born and raised in Whitefish and has lived in Kalispell for over a decade, is running unopposed for mayor. The city’s current mayor, Tammi Fisher, opted out of re-running after one four-year term. This is the first uncontested race for mayor since 2005.

Ward 3, encompassing the city’s largest segment of residents with roughly 5,140, is the most hotly contested race this year. Three candidates are vying for Jim Atkinson’s long-held seat. Atkinson is the longest standing councilor with 25 years of experience as one of two Ward 3 representatives. Atkinson is squaring off against newcomers Karlene Osorio-Kohr and Jason Mueller.

In Ward 1, longtime councilor Bob Hafferman has decided to step down, ending a long career of public service and vacating a seat he has held since 2002. Two candidates initially filed for Hafferman’s seat: Sandy Mundahl Carlson and Joseph Apple. Apple does not appear to be actively campaigning and did not attend at a recent public forum or return correspondence from the Beacon seeking comment or answers to this week’s candidate questionnaire.

In Ward 2, Chad Graham is running unopposed after current councilor Jeff Zauner declined to run for his second term. Graham, a local contractor and member of the city’s planning board, unsuccessfully ran for Wayne Saverud’s Ward 2 seat in 2011.

In Ward 4, incumbent Tim Kluesner is running for his third term unopposed.

Lori Adams is also running unopposed for municipal judge. Adams, a former Flathead County deputy attorney, replaced Heidi Ulbricht, who was elected to district court last November.

POLSON
This year’s municipal election is mail-in only, meaning residents don’t have to travel further than the mailbox to vote. Ballots are due back by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote at the Lake County Election Department office at 106 Fourth Ave. E. in Polson.

The upcoming election could largely determine the direction for future policymaking in City Hall.

The mayor seat is up for grabs and three new candidates are vying for the top spot: Heather Knutson, Bob Fulton and Michael Brandt.

Pat DeVries is stepping down for a second time; she served as mayor from 1986-90 and 2009-present.

Ward 3 features two candidates vying for the city commission: Ken Siler and Mary Frances Caselli. Bill D. Smith initially filed to run but last week he told the Beacon he decided not to pursue office. Incumbent Dan Morrison opted not to run for another four-year term in Ward 3.

Ward 2 also features two new potential commissioners: Murat Kalinyaprak and Jill Southerland. Incumbent Stephen Turner is not re-running.

Ward 1 incumbent Todd Erickson is running unopposed.

COLUMBIA FALLS
Columbia Falls traditionally has some of the quietest elections in the Flathead Valley, but this year there are five people running for three open seats on the city council.

Incumbents Shawn Bates, David Peterson and Michael Shepard are squaring off against newcomers Jenny Lovering and Duane C. Moore. Mayor Donald Barnhart, who was elected in 2009, is once again running uncontested for the city’s top spot.

Columbia Falls has not had a contested mayoral race since 2001. Columbia Falls’ last municipal election also attracted five council candidates and a voter turnout of just 16 percent.

Voting will take place at the Columbia Falls City Hall Council Chambers on Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

WHITEFISH
The political pendulum of Whitefish city politics has hung decisively in the center for the past two years, but as the terms of three councilors draw to a close, and with none of them running for re-election, the council is poised for a swing to the left.

The terms of Chris Hyatt, Phil Mitchell and Bill Kahle, who were ushered into office in 2009 with right-leaning support, are ending this year and four candidates are vying for the vacancies.

Meanwhile, John Anderson, Frank Sweeney and Richard Hildner, who in 2011 were grouped by voters and a blizzard of polarizing campaign signs, opinion pieces and letters to the editor as a slate of left-leaning candidates, are only half-way through their four-year terms.

Although municipal elections here are not conducted on a partisan basis, factions were divided starkly along those lines in Whitefish, and created a deeper schism than is often present in city races.

But in 2011, those party lines emerged in opinion pieces and letters to the editor, and drove some prominent community members to call for greater civility.

Mayor John Muhlfeld, who was elected on the same wave of support as Hyatt, Mitchell and Kahle, has said it is critical to recognize the needs of all Whitefish residents and not alienate anyone, stressing the importance of setting political ideology aside.



Candidates were asked the following 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. How can the city council aid economic
recovery in your city?



Editor's Note: The Beacon offered all candidates an opportunity to include questionnaires in this election guide. Those who declined were: Joseph Apple, Ward 1 candidate in Kalispell; Donald Barnhart, mayoral candidate in Columbia Falls; Duane C. Moore of Columbia Falls; Shawn Bates of Columbia Falls; and Todd Erickson, Ward 1 candidate in Polson.


Q&A: KALISPELL MAYOR


NAME: Mark Johnson AGE: 44
OCCUPATION: Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 13

1. I am running for mayor because I want to serve our city and make it a great place to raise our families and make it the best place in the Flathead to start and operate a business. For too many years we have seen our community’s youth leave in pursuit of opportunity and I want to turn that tide. We need to build on the successes we have had in developing a strong, local health care system and the fledgling firearms industry and attract new industry and professional opportunities in our community.

I believe my business experience and understanding of finance and development will be my strongest assets that I bring to the council. I have overseen very large companies and budgets and understand the complexities of fund and municipal accounting based upon my past career as a CPA and the many years I have served on the North Valley Hospital board of directors.

2. The city is facing a big decision with the airport expansion referendum. That is the most visible issue facing the city right now and, regardless of the voters’ decision, the council will be tasked with managing this asset so it is not a burden on the taxpayer and operates as a true enterprise fund.

Other important issues we face are the downtown redevelopment plan, assisting the Flathead County Economic Development Authority and Montana West Economic Development with the rail park development, and funding our street maintenance program. As the seat of our county government, our city enjoys the rewards of being the home of our county government but it also struggles with finding a way to pay for the impact the resulting business activity has on our municipal roadway infrastructure.

3. The council can assist with economic recovery on several fronts. The first task the council can complete is a comprehensive review of our impact fees and ensure that the fees are fair, not cost prohibitive and transparent in their assessment and calculation. I would also like to have the city consider assessing the fees over time and have them run with the property. The first few years of a new business are the toughest and to have a start up business pay these costs up front can mean the difference between success and failure. Along with impact fees we need to review our zoning regulations and current zoning maps and make sure they are aligned with our goal to have the city grow economically. We can also make sure we are utilizing our TIF districts and their funds wisely.


Q&A: KALISPELL CITY COUNCIL WARD 1


NAME: Sandy Mundahl Carlson AGE: 55
OCCUPATION: Donor Recruitment Rep.
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 27

1. I have worked in the nonprofit world for 11 years and have learned the value of volunteerism and community service. Nonprofit organizations would not exist if people were not willing to give of themselves, their time, energy and service. I would not have my job without the existence of volunteers. Serving in public office is a way of saying thank you and giving back to our community. I believe I am a strong candidate because I am invested in our community. I have been a member of the Daybreak Rotary Club for 11 years and am incoming club president next July. I have served on numerous boards and I take a strong interest in maintaining the wonderful quality of life in Kalispell. I have a lot to learn, but at the same time, if given the opportunity, I feel I could be an asset to the Kalispell City Council. I am dedicated and committed to becoming an informed and knowledgeable council woman.

2. At this point in time, I would say the airport upgrade issues and the revitalization of the downtown core area. There are pros and cons to each of these issues. Both projects will cost the voters, but the question is, can we afford to leave things as they are? We need to look forward to what will be most beneficial to the community and the most economically feasible.

3. It is the job of the city council to listen to the voters and represent the community to the best of its ability. The council needs to be fiscally responsible in their decision-making process. They need to look at the spending that is done now and how it will affect Kalispell in the years ahead.


Q&A: KALISPELL CITY COUNCIL WARD 2


NAME: Chad Graham AGE: 34
OCCUPATION: Local Builder
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 12 Kalispell, 22 County

1.  I like to serve. I currently serve on the Kalispell Planning Board/Zoning Commission as well as the Kalispell Impact Fee Advisory Committee. I feel that the knowledge I have gotten in these positions has enabled me to grab a greater understanding of how local governments function. They will also allow me to hit the ground running once on the council.
 
2.  The Kalispell City Airport. The referendum that was passed last year will create a voter mandate for the direction of the airport. However, whether the airport is expanded or remains the same, there is a lot of work still to be done. The city airport needs to be put on a path where it can pay for its operations, maintenance and capitol improvement so that it doesn’t continue to drag on city residents.
 
3.  Impact fee reform: Kalispell needs to continue to do all that it can to make business as good as possible. One way of doing so is making the city construction friendly. When costs of construction can be such that they are competitive with county construction more businesses will make the decision to locate in Kalispell. The trickle effect from ongoing construction in our community is huge. Reforming impact fees to be as fair to everybody involved as well as looking at positive economic impact created from construction is a great first step.


Q&A: KALISPELL CITY COUNCIL WARD 4


NAME: Tim Kluesner AGE: 45
OCCUPATION: Finance / Banker
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 32

1.  The reason I am running for re-election is because there is unfinished work to be done. I love contributing to our city and in the last four years we have turned our city around from financial peril to strong financial standing. My voice on council is not always with the majority. I pride myself in reading and analyzing the information given to me on each issue and standing up for the minority when they stand to be hurt by an unwise policy decision. I also stand for and believe in transparency of our government and try to show this transparency when I have the opportunity.
 
2. Issues facing us are rising property taxes, in-fill growth, over reliance on the federal government, self-funding for public infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, trees and lighting, and the overall transparency of our city government. These issues need to be managed better and long-term plans developed so that the fiscal impact on our residents is kept to a minimum. Property tax bills continue to go up year after year. I would like to see this trend stop and reverse in the next four years. Regarding the airport referendum I support FOR REPEAL. We do not need the airport expanded and can’t afford it. This is a unique opportunity to check and balance our city council. Don’t you wish you could do this on a federal level? Financial gain will be received by few yet paid for by the many if this expansion happens. This is a federal bailout! The financial uncertainty and danger of getting the federal government involved is too risky.
 
3. We can stay out of the way of business as much as possible. We need to assist in creating opportunities for businesses to grow, not obstacles. Not only does the City of Kalispell need to do this but all the cities within the valley and Flathead County do. It should be a collaborative effort amongst all governing bodies in northwest Montana.


Q&A: KALISPELL CITY COUNCIL WARD 3


NAME: Jim Atkinson AGE: 64
OCCUPATION: Retired
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 39

1. I am running again for city council for several reasons. The future development of the core of downtown promises to be one of the most exciting opportunities for Kalispell since the Kalispell Center Mall was envisioned and cooperatively accomplished. Solid attractants in the core of the city are what will keep us viable in the years to come. I feel that I am a strong candidate because of my institutional memory and persistence when it comes to seeing long, complicated projects through. An example has been the bypass, which took years to get on the radar and is now finally being accomplished.

2. The issue getting the most press at the time is that of the city-owned airport. It is another example of a long-term plan to upgrade an asset so that it is safer and would better serve the needs of business, emergency services, tourism and transportation in and out of our community.

Public and private individuals have dedicated their time and resources over 20 years to meet the requirements necessary so that aviation gas tax money, specifically appropriated to assist airports to pay for standards to keep airports safe, can be used to help us make the upgrade.

For me, the premises for beginning this process have not changed, the economics for doing so are far more advantageous than for declining the FAA money and the need for the upgrade still exists. It would be wrong to miss a chance to partner with FAA to upgrade our airport and inject it with new life for another 50 years.

3. One thing the city is doing to aid in economic growth is to apply for grants that will help us study directions the citizenry would like to go and assist in implementing those options. A perfect example is what city staff and land owners are doing now. They are looking at removing the railroad track from downtown. This could be done with the use of some grant funds to relocate some rail users on the west side of town and move them to a new industrial site being developed on the east end the track. It is not all done yet, but all are working together to help a dream be realized. The city has resources available only to them that can play a part in helping realize the dream. The result of the dream will be great economic recovery in the downtown region by utilizing the railroad land to re-imagine the look of the entire area, make it more pedestrian friendly, increase fun venues for tourists and anchor downtown as a destination community for our tourist population.


NAME: Jason Mueller AGE: 36
OCCUPATION: Building Contractor
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 7

1. I’m running for city council to serve my community. If elected I would only serve one to two terms max. Nobody should be in public office more than two terms. I would be a fair and honest voice of common sense on the council making decisions on a case-by-case basis that would affect everyone in the city in an equal and positive direction.

2. I feel slow growth is the most pressing issue facing the city. When growth is occurring at a steady positive rate, jobs are created, wealth is generated and quality of life is improved for the entire city.

3. Keep or reduce regulations and financial burdens on business and money coming into the city to encourage investment. When businesses do well, they expand and create jobs by hiring more employees. The money made by the new employees goes back home and then spent back in the valley in other businesses and the cycle keeps building. When there are more jobs through growth, that means more tax revenue, which can be used for city improvements and projects. Growth needs to happen before anything else.


NAME: Karlene Osorio-Khor AGE: NA
OCCUPATION: Member Manager of LLC
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 31

1. Change the player and you change the game is a true adage for this election. It is time for change. Sometimes the voters need choices and they deserve a new perspective. I am an agent of change. Some of the issues our city faces are very old and somehow have yet to find resolution; some are quite fresh. I believe it is time to take a new approach to resolving these old and new problems. We need to move forward to put these challenges behind us.

I am a strong candidate because of my solid and varied service to the community I love. Currently, I am a member of the Flathead High School and City parking committees. I am past chairperson of the Save Central School Committee, past school board member at St. Matthew’s School, past president with Kalispell Soroptimist, and former chairman of the Kalispell Impact Fee Committee. I graduated from Flathead High School and Gonzaga University.

2. This election is the most important in the history of Kalispell city elections because of the city airport issue. The decision, by the voters, on the expansion of the city airport will permanently affect Kalispell. I stand against the expansion of Kalispell’s City Airport. I will be voting on this year’s ballot FOR REPEAL of Resolution 557 overturning the Kalispell City Council legislative action. The expansion of the airport is in conflict with our quality of life. We all hold our homes dear. Our homes are, for most of us, our largest asset. Clearly, an expansion of the airport impacts our quality of life. All of the mathematical formulations pro and con for the expansion of the city airport are trumped by the quality of life argument. There are many other ways to economically drive our city that do not impact our quality of life, our neighbors and our neighborhoods.

3. Economic recovery is driven by the course of state and national economies but the City of Kalispell can still aggressively pursue job creation by actively promoting our community to business. Jobs are the most important aid to economic recovery for any city. Kalispell has unique assets that need to be marketed nationally and internationally to attract new businesses to our city. Our assets not only include our well educated populace, our strong medical community, our outstanding police and fire departments, our clean environment but the strong Montana work ethic each and every one of us possess. As important, our history – our downtown needs less punitive measures to allow it to have growth and continued economic viability. In other words, when you shop north of town, do you get a parking ticket? We have killed our downtown by not adequately addressing the parking issue.


Q&A: WHITEFISH CITY COUNCIL


NAME: Pam Barberis AGE: 45
OCCUPATION: Self Employed
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 9

1. I am running for Whitefish City Council because I feel it is important to participate in public service and I care about the future of Whitefish. I am a strong candidate because I am willing to listen and educate myself on many issues.

2. The most pressing issues for Whitefish are growth and development, which we need, but also need to do in a way that preserves our environment and quality of life. I feel we need to keep our lakes and rivers and air in a condition that promotes the health and happiness of our citizens and visitors.

3. I think that the City Council can aid economic recovery in our city by continuing to promote our thriving downtown area, expanding support for our local food system, and continuing to attract businesses that provide good wages so people can live and work and play in our beautiful corner of the world.


NAME: Andy Feury AGE: 55
OCCUPATION: Principal Partner, Director of Product and Business Development Western Pacific Plastics
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 32

1. I have lived in the Flathead Valley for 41 years, graduating from Flathead high in 1976. I attended University of Montana from 1976 - 1981 returning to Whitefish after graduating, where I have lived for the past 32 years.

2. Whitefish is one of the most involved, engaged communities there is, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of it and to have served previously for over fourteen years as a councilman and the mayor. The opportunity to be involved in so many decisions that have contributed to our town was extremely rewarding and I miss that. I feel I still have a lot to offer and can bring a balanced level of experience to the council that is unique.

3. If you look at three direct measures of economic activity in Whitefish, bed tax collections, resort tax revenues, and the number of building permits issued, all have shown solid increases in the past two years. With bed tax and resort tax revenues at or near historic highs, much of this is a direct result of good planning and the investments the city has, and continues to make, in quality infrastructure, schools, marketing, and amenities that make Whitefish a desirable place to live, visit, and do business. 

Whitefish has been known as the holiday village for as far back as anyone can remember. Open space, our environment, ease of access to public lands and recreation, and general quality of life were primary drivers in our economy long before they got any credit for the role they are playing in Montana’s shifting economics. Preserving, supporting, and enhancing these is key to our vitality. The Whitefish Area Neighborhood plan crafted by the DNRC and the City of Whitefish that resulted in Whitefish Legacy Partners and the Whitefish Trail is a groundbreaking example of how the City has in the past and can do this in the future.


NAME: Jen Frandsen AGE: 34
OCCUPATION: Chief Creative Officer & Co-owner of Old Town Creative
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 10

1. I am running for Whitefish City Council because I want to be one of the many volunteers that work to make Whitefish the great community I love. I am a good listener and effective at finding solutions to problems. One of the many hats I wear as a business owner is project manager. I solve problems daily, look for efficiencies, and plan ahead. I am always looking for ways to improve on what we’re doing. That’s what I would bring to the Whitefish City Council. I’ll come to the Council with creative thinking and problem solving, not an agenda. I really want to make the decisions that are best for our entire Whitefish community.

2. Making sure our water is clean and that our water sources are secure. That is also tied to navigating upgrades to our water treatment plant in a way that achieves a long term solution while also being cost effective. Whitefish is beginning to grow again, and it will be important to welcome that growth while making sure that we don’t diminish the great qualities of this community and the very things that drive that growth. However, we need to be preparing for growth in more than just new housing development. There will be growth in our business community, our population, and our number of visitors. That growth is a testament to the vitality of our community. To retain that vitality, we need to stay ahead of the curve and plan with the long view in mind.

3. We need to be sure we aren’t just looking at our toes. Whitefish is rebounding from the Great Recession at a faster pace than surrounding communities. One of the reasons is that Whitefish is a place that many people want to live. We have a lot of great amenities: clean water, great trails and recreation opportunities in town and around us. Above all we have a special sense of community that is really rare to find in places today. We should work to protect and enhance these things that are real economic drivers for our community. Businesses will be where people want to be. Keeping attention on the practical things that make this a good place for people and families to live will help continue the growth and diversification of our economy.


NAME: Life Noell AGE: 31
OCCUPATION: Zip Line Guide/Lift Operator,Whitefish Mountain Resort
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 10

1. I am running for city council because I believe that I will have the people’s best interest in mind when voting or making decisions.  I believe that I am a strong candidate because I care deeply about the community of Whitefish and I feel that I will bring a positive perspective to the conversation.

2. Different issues facing our city will continue to arise requiring various levels of action with different levels of priority, but I believe that as we continue to manage a secure budget, we will continue to be able to make wise decisions of growth without having to ask too much from anybody.

We all know that parking has been an issue here for a long time and I believe that we must secure a functional city parking plan where a majority of our citizens feel copacetic about the outcome. I feel that the new city hall should be built with great attention paid to our citizens’ input.  Also, I am interested to see what we will learn from the upcoming Hwy 93 West corridor study.  Additionally, I believe that we must always keep our waterways protected and clean and continue to promote awareness.

3. If we continue to protect our amenities here in Whitefish, then we can continue to protect our economy.  We must be excellent stewards to our community and recognize that folks visiting from other places help keep our economy moving forward as well.  We should encourage and support local businesses and learn ways to promote business activity in our less busy shoulder seasons.  We must engage with our citizens and work together in order to keep our economy strong.  I believe we should continue to provide for ourselves and others, the best Whitefish possible.


Q&A: COLUMBIA FALLS CITY COUNCIL


NAME: Jenny Lovering AGE: 40
OCCUPATION: Columbia Falls High School Teacher
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 16

1. When my husband and I decided it was time to purchase a house, it never occurred to us to look anywhere other than Columbia Falls. I am a social studies teacher at Columbia Falls High School, and I regularly tell my students that in order for democracy to work, they have to actively contribute to the process. With a strong background in history and government, I felt it was time to practice what I teach. I am running because I want to be a representative of my community. My years of teaching have given me the opportunity to work successfully with a diverse group of people.

2. Columbia Falls is a special place. It has maintained its small town atmosphere even as the valley has grown over the last 15 years. Each year, I watch my students graduate and try to find fulfilling, good paying jobs in the area, but that can be difficult. Columbia Falls needs to continue implementing its two-pronged approach, focusing on bringing industry to the town while capitalizing on being so close to Glacier National Park and other outstanding outdoor destinations. The key is determining how to do that without losing the character of the town.

3. Columbia Falls City Council should continue to court small business as well as larger industry. I want my children to be able to live and work in Columbia Falls if they so choose — so sustainable growth is essential. The council can set long-term goals and work intelligently to reach those goals in a manner that preserves the future stability of this town as well as its character. The council can work hand-in-hand with the Chamber of Commerce to promote Columbia Falls to tourists, while maintaining quality of life for its residents. At the same time, the city council should step aside whenever possible, and make it easier for business and industry to thrive.


NAME: David Petersen AGE: 61
OCCUPATION: Property Manager
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 8

1. I would like to serve one more term so I can continue to work on a couple of projects that council has started to address. One is to focus on our Nucleus Avenue business problem by making progress with city signage issues, influencing a better use of current business/office space, eliminating warehousing (per city code) on Nucleus Ave. in favor of real commercial business activity and continue to improve pedestrian safety issues along Nucleus. Another project I’m interested in is to continue to improve and develop multiple usages for River’s Edge Park. This 20-plus acre park on the Flathead River is unique to our valley. I believe if we develop this magnificent resource into a user friendly multiple use park we will not only positively serve our citizens but also our business community. Developed properly River’s Edge Park will become a recreational meeting place for the entire valley, which of course would also create business opportunities for both existing and new businesses.

2. Fortunately our balance sheet is acceptable, our fire and police departments are well run and our water and sewage plant is new, so for me our main issue is healthy sustainable growth. We have unbelievable geography all around us but it is up to city council and other organizations to be creative and far sighted as we manage our great location to everyone’s best benefit. Others may say they are a gateway to the park but Columbia Falls is and always will be the true “Gateway to the Park,” so I believe we need to think big as we consider what the next 50 years can be.

3. For me I would like to see our council be more pro-active toward our economic planning. If I have a criticism of city council it is that a few members tend to resist new ideas and/or different alternative ways at looking at both old and new issues we face as a city. Example: Everyone knows Nucleus Avenue is an eye sore and in need of attention. One piece of the puzzle was to install signage along Nucleus that would encourage safe pedestrian traffic as well as help people feel like they were actually in a “business district.” Still some council members voted no for over a year on this single improvement. Why? Beats me. As a council we can do better and if we want to grow we need to do better.


NAME: Michael Shepard AGE: 64
OCCUPATION: Retired
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 34

1. I am running as my strengths are directness and ability to focus and complete the task in whatever I get involved. I have been elected to four terms now in Columbia Falls. I bring age and sageness to the board, along with the other council people. Our city is in transition, from the once noted “industrial hub” and is now slowly becoming a bedroom community. We offer quietness and stability in our neighborhoods, low crime, and a good school system. We are a very conservative board, reflecting our community, both fiscally and morally.

2. We need to continue to push for the CFAC to clean up their plant-site, finish our river park, address our axis change of the traditional city to the “corridor”, and then re-work what can or cannot be done with the uptown. On top of that, as a board member, I promise to continue to monitor what is needed and only spend when the must have is absolutely required, trying to keep taxes under control, and see that the city manager form of government continues, under our guidance.

3. The best thing we can do is to get out of the way of growth with minimal interference from us, and let it flourish. Sooner or later, we will get our share of the eluded to “boom.” Our job is to do it right, and have no lawsuits like our other valley cities have had.


Q&A: POLSON MAYOR


NAME: Michael Brandt AGE: 31
OCCUPATION: Website Developer
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 4

1. I am running for mayor of Polson because I believe that Polson needs a mayor who will represent the interests of its citizens.

I am a strong candidate because I am highly analytical in my decision making process and am also open-minded. I have my own opinions on the important topics relevant to Polson, but I will always be willing to listen to what the citizens have to say and will use that information to continuously gain a better understanding of them.

2. First, I see Polson as being in the middle of an identity crisis. Do we want to keep the town sealed off, or do we want to be recognized as the premier city on the lake and capitalize on it? I want to see Polson prosper, and to do so, I believe we need to plan for our future.

Second, the economy. Bringing new businesses to town will not only create new jobs, but it will also serve as a reason for visitors to spend time and money here.

Finally, while I agree that there are issues of mistrust and miscommunication in the local government, I personally think that it can be dealt with fairly quickly. I will look at these problems that are consistently presented at city council meetings, respond with the facts, and allow the citizens to move on to more pressing issues.

3. Last year Polson was rated the #1 most business-friendly city in the state. While we have new business springing up all over town, there are also many that haven’t made it, and others on the brink of closing.

One way for city council to aid in economic recovery is by being willing to work with people who want to run their business in our town. I have heard time and time again different stories carrying the same general message. People want to make an investment in this city but are hesitant because they feel like their interests are not being considered by the local government in one form or another.

If we want to see Polson prosper, we need new businesses to open, offer employment opportunities, and offer incentive for visitors to come and spend their money here.

A renewed faith in the city council is a good start.


NAME: Bob Fulton AGE: 66
OCCUPATION: Retired Professional Civil Engineer
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 32

1. I am running because I have concluded the present city council is not respectful to citizens who bother to attend council meetings. Questions asked are often ignored in the apparent hope that the questioner will move on to another subject. I believe that the city government has given some developers and certain city employees special privileges. I have attended city council meetings for 32 years and for 24 of those was a contracted city engineer. I was the city building inspector for three of those 24. I feel that I have a good understanding of the city’s infrastructure and since I have served as the chairman of the City County Planning Board for the past seven years, I have a fairly thorough understanding of the Polson Development Code that serves to guide development in the city.

2. Polson’s future is dependent on its ability to provide services to its citizens. At the top of the list of concerns is water and the ability to increase the supply. For decades the city relied on the Hell Roaring Creek surface supply. As regulations became more difficult to satisfy, eventually that supply was physically cut off. Wells are the only source of water to the city. But the on-going controversy surrounding the Tribal-Federal-State water compact means that presently drilling and using a new well is probably not possible. Future growth will be stymied until this issue is resolved in a way that will allow the city to increase its supply.

3. I owned and operated a consulting business on Main Street for almost 30 years. Over that time I observed many business ventures come and go in response to circumstances unrelated to anything the city council did. As has been said many times, a good business idea that is well executed by competent owners will prevail. I firmly believe that to be true. But the city council can make the process of establishing a business easier to understand. The regulation maze that confronts a potential business owner can be simplified and should be. There is an ongoing re-write of the Polson Development Code that should and will simplify this process if I am elected mayor.

NAME: Heather Knutson AGE: 37
OCCUPATION: General Manager, Country Foods
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 28

1. I am running for mayor of Polson because I believe in a positive future for our community. I am part of the third generation of Knutson’s who have made Polson their home. I feel I have a connection to our past, while having the skills, ability, and energy to help lead our town to the future. We need balanced, sensible decision makers representing our citizens, and I think I can offer leadership, an open mind, and positive representation for our community.

2. I believe the next four years will bring a multitude of challenges, some known and some yet to be raised in the future. Polson is currently in a time of change, with many new businesses either opening, or planning to open; new recreational facilities and pathways being built; and some instability with utilities and potential growth. As of today, I believe some of the top issues include: updating the sewer system, maintaining positive inter-governmental relations, building a business friendly community, managing growth, and fulfilling the basic duties and responsibilities of our city in a positive manner. I believe in order to effectively navigate the issues, we need to focus on transparency in our commission direction, find ways to garner additional citizen input on city issues, and ensure follow-through on commission decisions.

3. Economic growth will occur in our town when we can offer secure and consistent jobs for our residents. This will give the community the disposable income needed to in turn support the local businesses. We also need to welcome and entertain tourists and seasonal residents in our town. To successfully achieve those points, we need to be a business friendly commission. Personally, I am currently working with the Polson Chamber of Commerce and Job Service to put together the first phase of a Business Growth Action Plan. This first step focuses on assisting businesses interested in our area with finding the right locations and contacts they need to make decisions. The Polson City Commission will play a significant role in helping to support and encourage new and current businesses, which equates to increased and expanded jobs for our citizens.


Q&A: POLSON WARD 2


NAME: Murat Kalinyaprak AGE: 56
OCCUPATION: Business Owner
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 22

1. One of the findings of the “Envision Polson! Survey,” conducted by the Greater Polson Community Foundation in December 2011, was the frequently expressed belief that “Polson has a ‘good old boys club’ that runs the city.” It’s evident that Polson voters don’t want to elect yet more “good old boys” (or “good old girls”) to city council. I am running in order to give Polson citizens a choice: “a candidate whom they can vote for.” I am the stronger candidate because I have attended council meetings and participated in city government extensively for the past eight years, and thus accumulated considerable insight, education and experience about how the city government works. My efforts and expenses as a participating citizen already resulted in many public policy improvements and in actual savings of several hundred thousands of tax dollars. My record shows that I am capable of effecting change for the better.

2. During the past decade, public participation has gradually been restricted, and eventually been reduced down to practically none. Obtaining public information has become an ordeal. Many requests are denied simply as involving litigation or personnel matters. During city council meetings, citizens’ questions are not answered, per city attorney’s often interjecting directives. Public input is limited to a single of three minutes comment. “Citizen participation” is meaningless without being able to become informed about issues. But in Polson, it doesn’t matter because city council doesn’t listen to public comments anyway. City council meetings have become so short that it is too obvious that they come having already decided which way to vote on “precooked” agenda items put in front of them. The issues of denied access to public information and limited citizen participation in government are the most pressing, because they are prerequisites for properly addressing all other issues.

3. A penny saved is better than a penny earned. Instead of promising jobs rhetoric, the city first has to stop robbing taxpayers’ pocketbooks without their consent. A good example of irresponsible spending is the infamous “bridge under bridge” at an estimated cost of almost a million dollars, which will surely go higher and will be paid with Polson citizens’ taxes. What adds insult to injury is that the city council decided to build it without following rules or even holding proper public hearings. Selling our assets is not a sustainable way of generating income to pay for such wastefulness either. We are already running short on lakeshores, mountain views, neighborhoods, friendships, quality of life and way of life to sell. In many similar places locals have been “taxed out of their communities” because of such irresponsible spending. I will work to prevent it from happening in Polson.


NAME: Jillayne (Jill) Southerland AGE: 70
OCCUPATION: Retired College Prof. and Admin.
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 7.5

1. My husband Mike and I have found this community to be the best in which we have lived. I want to give back to the people who have been caring and supportive to us by helping out in Polson as a city commissioner. I care about the future of our city, and I am committed to valuing Polson’s history while working for a dynamic future for generations to come.

My experience as an administrator responsible for supervising many people and managing several budgets will help me deal with the business of the Polson City Council. I have had four years’ experience as an elected council member in a city of 20,000 homeowners.

2. I believe there are several issues Polson is facing, and what I would focus on first is the current perception of the city council by some of its citizens. I want to improve communication and accountability between the council members with openness and honesty because some citizens have conveyed a lack of trust and a feeling of not being heard by the council. Another issue that is vital statewide is getting water rights adjudicated for generations to come. The condition of our city roads needs to be addressed as well. Many streets are aging and experiencing continual pothole repair. I am concerned about seeing empty store fronts in our downtown, some due to the state of our economy. Working with business owners to find incentives that will keep businesses open and thriving is vital.

3. The City Council can collaborate with the business community, the chamber, planning and economic development commissions, to strategize ideas and incentives that may help the community to thrive. Addressing how the city looks (clean, well-kept downtown and neighborhoods) will go a long way to encourage new businesses, tourism, and new citizen growth. The state of the economy is a national challenge, and all cities and towns are impacted. Being a friendly and supportive City Council is vital to helping our community weather the current economic challenges.


Q&A: POLSON WARD 3


NAME: Ken Siler AGE: 78
OCCUPATION: Retired 1996, Ford Aerospace
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 15

1. N/A

2. I feel the most important local issue is to get the right city manager. After following the selection of Mark Shrives, I think we are there. Running a city requires openness and continuity. We must stop this presumption of favoritism, real or imagined. 

3. My vision for this community in 10 years is to see that it is still the great place it is to live; that it is today. Everybody wants better streets. We have to just figure out how to pay for them. Our street department is doing a great job at road maintenance with the limited resources.


NAME: Mary Frances Caselli AGE: N/A
OCCUPATION: Self Employed
YEARS LIVING IN YOUR CITY: 10

1. I am running for Polson City Commissioner Ward 3 because citizens of Lake County have asked me to. I am a strong candidate because I believe in government that is open and honest. Government should allow and encourage the personal responsibility of its citizens which then will motivate them to be involved in their community. 

2. I think that the most pressing issue facing Polson is a need for open government where public input is heard and considered. Currently there is blatant disregard for Polson citizenry and their opinions. The governmental decisions made should be for the benefit of the taxpayers first and foremost, not for special interest. People should come first and government second.

3. Economic recovery happens within the community and not by government intervention. The city council can aid economic recovery in Polson by getting out of the way of the business owner and letting private business thrive. They can do that by eliminating burdensome red tape and over regulation and by using taxpayer money responsibly. This approach will support current businesses and encourage new businesses to open while helping the city to flourish and prosper.
 
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