News & Features

Kalispell Candidates Vie for Council Seats in November Election

Five residents squaring off for two ward seats on city council

Five candidates are vying for two seats on the Kalispell City Council in the upcoming November election.

The Beacon is publishing its first series of questionnaires with candidates for municipal elections this fall, starting with Kalispell. Absentee ballots are being mailed Oct. 18 and Election Day is Nov. 7.

In Kalispell, incumbent Mayor Mark Johnson is running unopposed for the second time in as many elections. Incumbent councilors Sandra Carlson, in Ward 1, and Chad Graham, in Ward 2, are also running unopposed. Kalispell municipal judge Lori Adams is running unopposed.

The Kalispell council is composed of eight councilors and the mayor. The city is divided into four wards with two councilors serving from each ward. The council serves as the city’s primary legislative body with an appointed city manager, who works as the chief administrative officer.

Ward 3 features three candidates this election: incumbent Jim Atkinson, Kyle Waterman and Karlene Osorio-Khor. The top vote-getter will be elected to the ward seat.

Ward 4 features two candidates: incumbent Tim Kluesner and Sid Daoud. Paige Rappleye filed as a candidate but did not file required documents with the Commissioner of Political Practices and her name was removed from the ballot, according to Flathead County Election Department officials.

»»» Click here to view a ward map

The city of Kalispell is hosting a public forum featuring the candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. inside City Hall. The forum will be aired on the city’s YouTube channel and cable channel 190 beginning Oct. 12.

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Candidate Questions

1. Why are you running and what makes you a strong candidate?

2. What role should the city of Kalispell play in helping foster redevelopment in the core area, including downtown? What improvements/projects would you like to see the city tackle along those lines?

3. How should Kalispell address the mounting costs and need for city services, such as emergency medical services, and infrastructure amid record-breaking growth?  

4. What are the most pressing issues, not mentioned above, facing the city and how would you address them?

From left: Ward 3 candidates Jim Atkinson, Karlene Osorio-Khor and Kyle Waterman. Courtesy Photos

Kalispell Ward 3

NAME: Kyle Waterman

OCCUPATION: Nonprofit consultant

YEARS LIVING IN KALISPELL: 5

1. I am running because I can help Kalispell to be its best. My 16 years working in the non-profit sector have provided me with experience in forging private and public partnerships and making the most out of limited resources. I am a strong candidate because I have both the interest and relevant experience to do this job, in addition to a fresh perspective.

2. The city of Kalispell should have a prominent leadership role in the redevelopment of the core area of Kalispell, including downtown. There can be no question that any improvements and changes cannot occur without the involvement of the city and the buy-in of Kalispell citizens. For this reason, the city council must clearly articulate its goals, proposals of achieving those goals, set time limits and budgets, and empower qualified professionals to implement stated goals. All the while, the city should be looking to businesses and the community to weigh in on and be part of the planning and implementation.

I believe the city needs to take a leading role in these conversations. Then I believe that our funding responsibilities should taper and that our other partners from businesses or the community should contribute so that the city isn’t responsible for the entire cost. There are businesses across Kalispell, outside the core, that also deserve this system to be fair and their development and opportunities deserve the council’s attention.

3. If we grow in a smart and intentional manner, that growth will provide revenue to sustain essential services. That said, the city council must be mindful of the need to propose bonds when appropriate and remain sensitive to Kalispell citizens’ tax burden. Mindful and smart growth that attracts businesses and good jobs while maintaining the character of Kalispell will lift the entire city of Kalispell and allow us to better provide basic services while also increasing everyone’s quality of life. This means that some good ideas are not going to be funded or that we need to work to find grants and funding partners to make those opportunities happen. Leveraging partnerships and making strategic choices is the only way forward.

4. Two of the most pressing issues include transportation and housing. There is obviously an ongoing healthy debate regarding the best way to manage traffic through the downtown area. The bypass has been a tremendous help but there remains a traffic issue through downtown. To redevelop downtown in a manner that is attractive to business, we cannot have logging trucks and heavy traffic dominating the aesthetic of Main Street. I fully support a city plan that will reroute traffic off Main Street. Of course, the devil is in the details and the hard work of the city is figuring out a reasonable and sustainable long-term plan for traffic with the county and state.

Housing is an important issue because with growth sometimes comes rising housing costs. We cannot allow Kalispell to grow without keeping a constant watch on the affordability of housing and ensuring that everyone can continue to afford to live here. I do not want to see Kalispell become unaffordable like Bozeman or Missoula where housing costs are exorbitant. At the same time we deserve a vibrant unique local economy. Balancing these sometimes competing factors will require dedication and vigilance. I am prepared to do this hard work.

NAME: Karlene Osorio-Khor

OCCUPATION: Manager, La Lark LLC

YEARS LIVING IN KALISPELL: 42

1. I have lived in Ward 3 most of my life, been appointed by two different mayors to city board positions and have served Kalispell on numerous nonprofit boards, which makes me a strong candidate with experience and knowledge for the position. I have an open mind and am determined to do good work for my city.

Listening to residents is the most important tool for good government. Community input is vital for Kalispell to grow and flourish. Residents’ opinions matter.

I ran for this office before and lost by 14 voters. This race is not about agendas or visions. It’s about opinions. What are voters’ opinions?

One of my opponents, new to Kalispell, has no experience with Kalispell city matters; the other has sat 29 years on City Council. A vote for either one guarantees the incumbents’ election again. Do you support term limits? I do. Do you think candidates should have some experience with city matters before they are elected to serve you? I do.

Kalispell is a wonderful place to live. I am running because I want to help and serve my community. My husband, daughter and I love Kalispell. I feel grateful and blessed to live here.

2. Managing a limited liability company, which owns commercial property on Main Street in downtown Kalispell, has given me a unique insight into small business and the importance of Main Street to the health and welfare of Kalispell and its residents.

Having served on Kalispell’s Planning Board, I understand the importance of planning in implementing any project of significance and value. Keeping an open mind and being determined to find the best solutions for all Kalispell residents is my approach.

I support revitalization of the Kalispell core area plan and am hopeful the city’s policies and government will not choke its growth. We should be proud of our grant writers and our Montana Senators for working together to secure a TIGER grant for this project. Securing the Tiger grant made the concept of redevelopment of the CORE area a reality!

Improvements and redevelopment projects the city tackle need to be determined by the residents of Kalispell. I would like to hear from the community as to the specific projects they support and need in the Core area and Downtown.  There is room at the table for all to chart this exciting new course for Kalispell.

3. I am very interested in studying and sourcing other financial methodologies to help Kalispell address its aging infrastructures and other financial expenses currently almost completely underwritten by property taxes. When I was chairman of Kalispell’s Impact Fee Committee, there was concern for ratepayers who had already paid their fair share to be burdened with additional fees brought by growth. Everyone should pay their fair share. Ward 3 has many senior citizens on fixed incomes and young families working two or more jobs who reside there. They cannot continue to face constant and continual increases to their property taxes.

They need to know their city council person will ask how is it going to affect the taxpayer. We can find better ways and other alternatives to address mounting city costs and the costs of growth and we should do it. We also need to review our present costs and present needs for city services. Are they sufficient and efficient and cost effective?

Emergency Medical Services has been visited by the council. Other cities use private not public EMS. There are other options and variations of public and private and joint ventures and grants. We need to explore these options.

4. Transportation is important and key to any city. How do our roads move us through our city? Are our roads safe? How do we anticipate future traffic needs and how will they benefit our neighborhoods?

How do we want the corridors leading into Kalispell to look? This is a critical issue. Is it just cementing sprawl or does it look welcoming and vibrant and interesting. Is this a town to linger in or drive through?

It has taken a long time to make our bypass a reality but now we must look to our Main Street in downtown Kalispell. Clearly, Kalispell has a view of how it wants this street to look and so do the County Commissioners. It is critical and if I sat on Kalispell City Council, I would urge the City Council, County Commissioners and the State to sit down and work together to solve this.

NAME: Jim Atkinson

OCCUPATION: Retired. Former Director of Flathead County Agency on Aging

YEARS LIVING IN KALISPELL: 43

1. The main reason I am running is to continue to be a part of the positive way in which the city is going. The downtown redevelopment and core development plans are exciting long range plans that will insure the continued vitality of our downtown and, therefore, economic longevity of the entire community. I want to assure that these plans move forward with the enthusiasm that they presently enjoy.

2. We are rezoning the area to a new B-3 zone, which will allow and encourage the types of business and housing that will enhance the nature of the area. The core is in a tax increment district, which allows the city to support private investment by paying for some of the infrastructure, thus assisting businesses to get up and running for less initial investment. I would encourage the city to work with partners to develop a performing arts center in the core area.  This would help establish downtown as the place to be, night and day.

3. The state has allowed us the tool of impact fees to help the rate payers with new infrastructure costs due to new growth. New housing and business pays an upfront fee to hook up to services. This fee helps pay for some of the expense of growth so that the regular citizens of Kalispell don’t have to foot the entire bill for new or expanded infrastructure.

The city would like to have the opportunity to present another option to the citizens of Kalispell to help pay for new or upgraded infrastructure. A local option sales tax would give the citizens an option to vote themselves a sales tax on certain items to help fund the city. The advantage to this tax is that it broadens the tax base. Anyone who uses our streets and city services, vis-à-vis tourists and any out of town people, would help support city services rather than just the city taxpayers. The legislature will not allow us to use this option consequently we have few ways of raising revenue for city services other than city property owners.

4. We are in the process of addressing the running of the city airport by developing an agreement with the pilots group to maintain and manage the airport with no cost to the city. If this occurs, we should have a long-term solution for the airport. Old School Station, a technical industrial park south of town, has not developed as well or as soon as expected, leaving the city on the hook for some expenses in the future. Tactics have been taken to increase the likelihood of those parcels selling, which should eliminate any liability the city has in that area.  In the past the city expanded its boundaries substantially in response to developers who wanted to have city services.  This created a strain on our wastewater system that necessitated an expansion of our waste water treatment plant.

Now, with the infill of further property, we need to expand our service lines to the wastewater treatment plant. The west side interceptor is the answer to the growth in northern Kalispell. We have funding options to build this interceptor and are moving ahead with it. Without it we would not be able to issue building permits and the development of Kalispell would cease.

These are three unfinished issues that city staff have identified, researched, planned and offered solutions for, giving the council to make wise decisions for growing our city in an organized manner.

From left: Ward 4 candidates Tim Kluesner and Sid Daoud. Courtesy Photos

Kalispell Ward 4

NAME: Tim Kluesner

OCCUPATION: Mortgage Originator

YEARS LIVING IN KALISPELL: 37+

1. Service to our community is one of the most important things we can do. Our city is changing as seen by the spectacular growth. What we set in place now will pave the way for a better community that our children will inherit. To navigate this evolution we need members on our city council who can see where we have been, where we are at and what it takes to continue down our path of improvement. Council members are non-partisan in their governing and this is what makes us effective in getting things done. This is “Community First” governing. I am proud of the accomplishments that have been made in guiding our city’s future. My experience has given me the knowledge of how our local government operates and how the services it provides impact the daily lives of our residents. My record of service on the council shows that I am “Kalispell Proud” and will continue to serve you and your neighbors into an even brighter future.

2. The city has partnered with key stakeholders in ushering in a new core area for redevelopment. The city’s partnership with Montana West Economic Development has been instrumental in the success of the redevelopment of the core area so far. We would not be this far along if it were not for the cooperation and support of our congressional delegation, many individuals, businesses and property owners in the core area. I am proud of my involvement in this visionary project and have taken personal time off of work to travel to Washington, D.C. twice to help present this project resulting in the receipt of the $10 million catalyst grant. The city and valley as a whole will benefit from projects in the core area that improve walk-ability, north-south driving, modern residential projects, shopping and entertainment venues. It’s a worthy investment in our future and I am proud of the work we have done together to make this project a reality.

3. We need to ensure proper allocation of tax dollars. A city has to provide Emergency Services, Water and Sewer. Keep the police on the streets, put out fires, take me to the hospital in an emergency and make sure my toilet flushes; common themes among taxpayers. Currently city taxpayers pay twice for our 911 dispatch service and that needs to change. As the center of commerce for Northwest Montana, the City of Kalispell serves everyone 24 hours a day, whether they are a city taxpayer or not. However, only our residents and businesses pay for this service. Some services are user fee based such as water, sewer and ambulance; however large infrastructure expansion is not. Our Ambulance fund is facing financial strain and is not fully sustained by those who use it. We must look at other ways to pay without going back to the current taxpayers to do so. A restructure of our current taxing system may be in order. We must be given the ability on a local level to decide the best means to pay for growth, not be forced to pay for it the way the state dictates: from the wallets of our residents.

4. Affordable housing is an issue facing not only the city but all of the Flathead Valley. The problem of affordable housing is a function of supply and demand. Right now the demand is high, the supply low. As a city we cannot build the housing however we can facilitate the construction by approving zoning and development projects that provide it.  The city is currently doing this. There are currently 73 subsidized affordable housing units being built in the city and nearly 1,000 more multiple family units in planning stages. Jobs are important for housing since it provides the means to pay for rent or a mortgage. Through the same type of actions, approving zoning and building projects, the city helps increase employment and income. Examples are the core area redevelopment project and recent commercial projects.

NAME: Sid Daoud

OCCUPATION: Solutions engineer at CompuNet Inc.

YEARS LIVING IN KALISPELL: 11 in the Flathead Valley; six in Kalispell

1. With a focus on growing our economy and job opportunities, I seek to implement new ways to look at city initiatives. Small government, with a focus on efficiency, allows citizens to keep more of their hard-earned money, which they will then spend in their community (a healthy free market!). Imagine coupling this with an innovative city council that seeks to provide for initiatives with funds not completely sourced by tax money. By involving the community to help fundraise for projects that are important to them, you create a connection between the people, the project and their municipal government.

2. A downtown that is allowed to flourish with minimal restrictions, regulations and stifling zoning may just do the trick. Sometimes the best thing government can do is just plain stay out of the way. American economies thrive in a free market where community ideals of free association and voluntary support are allowed to ebb and flow naturally.

3. Record-breaking growth should equal record-breaking revenue for the city. As the population grows so should city revenue. If this is not the case then we need to look at the system and determine why it will not scale. My answer is not to tax the citizens more; it is to run the smallest, most efficient city government possible. Identifying opportunities to fine tune, reduce and restructure our city government and the services it provides should be addressed first. Then we can look at innovative ways to fund our needs that are not based on taxation.

4. After talking with people in the city, the same issue comes up consistently. Private citizens and business owners cite the prohibitive cost of city taxation and service fees that are lumped in with property taxes. The general belief is that property taxes are out of proportion with our median income. Again, we should look at a small and efficient city government and creative financing as the first step to stopping any tax increase with the goal of reducing taxes and/or providing a surplus that we can then set aside for future initiatives alleviating the need for bonds.

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