Kalispell Council Elects Kuntz as New Ward 3 Representative

Rod Kuntz emerges as Randy Kenyon's successor after Monday night vote

By Dillon Tabish

In a surprise move, the Kalispell City Council elected a relative newcomer as its ninth member after an uncommon voting process to fill a vacancy in Ward 3.

Rod Kuntz was narrowly selected Monday night among 11 candidates to replace Randy Kenyon, who retired last month after 14 years on the city council.

The eight remaining members of city council heard from each candidate before voting for their top three choices. The votes were weighted, with first-place nominees receiving three points, second place receiving two and third place receiving one.

Kuntz received 10 points. John Hinchey earned eight and Marc Rold, Lance Isaak and Steve Burglund each had six.

“I’m surprised. There were just so many qualified candidates. Any one of them would have served quite well,” Kuntz said afterward. “I’m anxious to serve.”

Councilors Tim Kluesner and Chad Graham both tabbed Kuntz as their top choice, despite neither of them knowing their new colleague personally.

“I’ve never met him in my life. I’ve never even talked to him,” Kluesner said.

Kluesner, who was similarly appointed to city council in July 2005 after his ward’s predecessor retired, said he liked Kuntz’s business background and how he presented himself.

“I just liked what he had to say. And he seemed really genuine,” Kluesner said. “He’s going to be a fresh new face and will give new perspective on things, which is going to help me.”

Graham echoed Kluesner’s sentiments, saying he was impressed with Kuntz’s letter of interest and his experience working on the parking situation surrounding Flathead High School.

“It was a very heated topic and I just heard he handled it well,” Graham said of Kuntz’s involvement with the Flathead neighborhood parking issue.

He added, “There were a lot of good letters but for some reason his letter was one that stood out to me. When he gave public comment it reassured me where I was going with my thought process.”

Kuntz grew up in Hardin and has lived in Kalispell since 1986. He has managed both wholesale and retail businesses and worked as a substitute teacher for three years. He served in the Montana and Hawaii National Guard.

Speaking before council, Kuntz described himself as someone with a lot of different experiences and motivation to learn the issues before making any decisions.

“I would do a very good job studying the issues. I’m aggressive and tenacious and well-balanced,” he said.

Kuntz said he previously wrote a letter of support for Karlene Ann Osorio-Khor, who ran unsuccesfully against Jim Atkinson in last year’s election. He said he decided to apply for the Ward 3 vacancy as a way to serve his neighborhood and surrounding community.

At Mayor Mark Johnson’s behest, the council first planned to vote on the top three nominees and then re-vote on those candidates. But since there was a three-way tie for third, the nominees were whittled down to two. An initial vote for Kuntz, brought by Graham and Kluesner, drew four votes, with Johnson and Phil Guiffrida III showing their support. But without a majority, the voting appeared gridlocked, as councilors Jim Atkinson, Kari Gabriel, Sandy Carlson and Wayne Saverud showed support for Hinchey.

To solve the situation, Johnson recommended the candidate with the most votes overall win the seat, though no one was sure whether it was Hinchey or Kuntz at the time. The council agreed unanimously, and it was announced that Kuntz emerged as the victor. He will fill the remaining term in Ward 3 through December 2015.

“We have a lot of great applicants,” Johnson said. “With any one of you on the council, the city would be well served and Ward 3 would be well represented.”

Graham encouraged those who applied for the council seat to apply for the vacant seats on community boards, such as the planning board.

Vote Tallies

Rod Kuntz – 10

John Hinchey – 8

Steve Burglund – 6

Lance Isaak – 6

Marc Rold – 6

Karlene Ann Osorio-Khor – 5

Bill Nelson – 4

Jonathan Smith – 2

James Cossitt – 1

Richard Hull – 0

Mary Kay Myett – 0


City Council Ballots

First place = 3 points; Second place = 2 points; Third place = 1 point

Mark Johnson

1. Marc Rold

2. Rod Kuntz

3. James Cossitt

Chad Graham

1. Rod Kuntz

2. Marc Rold

3. Bill Nelson

Wayne Saverud

1. John Hinchey

2. Bill Nelson

3. Jonathan Smith

Jim Atkinson

1. Steve Burglund

2. John Hinchey

3. Jonathan Smith

Phil Guiffrida III

1. Karlene Ann Osorio-Khor

2. Rod Kuntz

3. John Hinchey

Tim Kluesner

1. Rod Kuntz

2. Karlene Ann Osorio-Khor

3. Bill Nelson

Sandy Carlson

1. Lance Isaak

2. Steve Burglund

3. Marc Rold

Kari Gabriel

1. Lance Isaak

2. John Hinchey

3. Steve Burglund

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.