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  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Outspoken Councilor Goes Out Quietly
New council members, including mayor, sworn into office in Kalispell
Bob Hafferman, long-time city council member, is planning to retire. He is pictured in his Kalispell home on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
There was hardly ever a decision in City Hall that passed by quietly. Not on Bob Hafferman’s watch.

Over the last decade, the 82-year-old city councilor from Kalispell’s Ward 1 spoke up early and often inside council chambers, raising ire and inquiry at seemingly every turn. With a tilt of his glasses, he’d raise a scrutinizing eye to the list of items atop the council’s bi-weekly agendas, questioning routine and complex matters all the same. If it were possible to know, the number of votes that ended 8-1 with Hafferman standing alone in opposition would be telling.

“I’ve tried to do my job. I’ve tried to listen to people. And to know what the rules and regulations are,” he says. “I wanted to be there to be a voice … There’s a lot of people who never appear before the council and somehow their voice isn’t heard as loudly as apparently I’m hearing it.”

After 12 years, a familiar voice in Kalispell is going out quietly with the new year. Hafferman stepped down Monday night after three four-year terms on council. His wife Clare is battling cancer and he’s having a harder time hearing these days, so the timing was right to end his term as a public servant in his hometown and turn his attention elsewhere.

“Right now my top priority is my wife’s health,” he says.

Hafferman handed off his Ward 1 seat to Sandy Mundahl Carlson, a first-time councilor who was elected during the November election.

“I think the last four years has made a lot of progress, or at least we’ve done a lot of things that are more favorable for the average citizen of Kalispell,” Hafferman says.

In a formal ceremony inside City Hall this week, Hafferman, fellow outgoing councilor Jeff Zauner and Mayor Tammi Fisher bid farewell. Carlson was sworn in along with Chad Graham, another council newcomer who ran unopposed in Ward 2, Mark Johnson, an unopposed mayoral candidate, and incumbents Tim Kluesner and Jim Atkinson.

Kalispell’s municipal government is undergoing a noticeable shift with the three new members, although the exact difference between this group and the last will become more distinct in the coming months as hotly contested items emerge on the agenda. The immediate issues include deciding which direction to go with impact fees, the municipal airport and the core area redevelopment plan and how to address the city’s aging infrastructure.

“Obviously we have new voices, new thoughts, new patterns. It’s still that main goal of getting that full breadth of representation,” Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell said. “We always appreciate all the perspective that come with the different members. I’m always excited when people are willing to serve. It can be a challenging thing but it can also be a very rewarding thing. They all said ‘I care enough right now to put forth the time to make my community better.’ I have great appreciation for the people who are willing to do that.”

In just the past year, the council tackled several contentious topics and oftentimes the votes split evenly. The city airport vote went back and forth before finally the voters were given the final say. There was also the decision to eliminate transportation impact fees, and now the council is preparing to focus on builders’ fees related to development. One issue that all cities must face — infrastructure like sidewalks and streets — is especially at the fore in Kalispell, and Russell expected the council to begin looking for ways to maintain or replace the laundry list of needs.

Hafferman will still follow the actions inside City Hall. After all, their decisions affect his hometown, and that’s no small order of business in his mind.

“I’ve traveled all over,” the 1949 Flathead High graduate says. “The only place I haven’t been in the U.S. is the Northeast. No matter where I go, there’s a lot of good places, but there isn’t anything like Kalispell.”
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