Candidates Begin Filing for 2017 Municipal Elections

Kalispell, Columbia Falls mayors running for re-election; filing period closes June 19

By Dillon Tabish
Election stickers at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. Beacon File Photo

Updated: April 21, 4:30 p.m.

On Thursday morning, the first candidates for the 2017 municipal elections registered inside the Flathead County Election Department on the second floor of the new south campus building in Kalispell.

April 20 marked the beginning of the filing period for this fall’s elections. Residents seeking open city council and municipal judge positions have until June 19 to declare their candidacy. If three or more candidates register for an individual position, a primary election will be held this summer to pare down the list to two.

The first wave of prospective civic leaders included three municipal judge candidates, Lori Adams of Kalispell and William Hileman and Kristi Curtis of Whitefish, and three Kalispell councilors, Chad Graham, Sandy Carlson and Tim Kluesner, and Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson.

“I think there’s some unfinished business that we need to get done on council,” Graham, an incumbent Ward 2 councilor seeking a second four-year term, said.

“I think we work together really well as a council, but there is some unfinished business that I want to see through to the end and finish what we started.”

Graham is one of five council candidates up for re-election in Kalispell, along with Carlson of Ward 1, Kluesner of Ward 4, Jim Atkinson of Ward 3 and Mayor Johnson.

Johnson, who ran unopposed four years ago, filed his paperwork on Thursday afternoon.

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. Click here for a ward map. The council serves as the city’s primary legislative body with an appointed city manager who works as the chief administrative officer. The mayor is paid an annual salary of $10,800, councilors are paid $5,900 and the municipal judge receives $81,681, according to city finance officials. Councilors can also choose to participate in a health insurance program and retirement program.

In Whitefish, the city council has three open seats as the terms for Andy Feury, Jen Frandsen and Pam Barberis are expiring. Whitefish’s city government encompasses six councilors and the mayor serving as the legislative body and an appointed city manager who oversees daily operations. City councilors and the mayor serve in an entirely volunteer basis and do not receive compensation.

Municipal Judge Bradley Johnson is retiring. His most recent salary was $80,811, according to city finance officials.

In Columbia Falls, Mayor Don Barnhart’s term is expiring along with councilors Jenny Lovering, Dave Petersen and Mike Shepard.

Barnhart, who is approaching the end of his second term as mayor and previously served two terms as a councilor, said he plans on running for re-election.

“It’s exciting to be in Columbia Falls at this time and have something to do with its good future,” he said.

The Columbia Falls City Council features six councilors and the mayor who serve as the legislative body while the city manager oversees daily operations. The mayor is paid $400 a month and councilors are paid $200 a month, according to city officials. Judges are appointed, not elected, in Columbia Falls.

Election Day is Nov. 7.