Change is in the Air

Help set the direction of Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell for the next four years with just one ballot

By Mike Jopek

A cold-blowing wind from the northeast was bearing down on the farm. It focused the harvest. Much of the outdoor produce wouldn’t survive these extended freezing nights. Early fall produced some big and cold weather.

The cold felt familiar. Last spring also produced teen temperatures. It was a short but good outdoor-growing season – a season that hadn’t dumped four feet of snow in the field like places east of the divide. The Rockies bring out some extreme weather.

The big freeze felt like a day of reckoning, a time when farm priorities change from harvest to fall chores.

In town, it’s time to decide the next set of elected leaders to run local governments. There are big decisions ahead.

If you like the direction places like Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell are heading, go to the polls, get a ballot, and cast a vote. If you dislike what’s happening, do likewise.

It’s really not hard. It’s one of the fundamental values we share. A vote takes but a minute and last for years.

Municipal elections are on. All three cities offer plenty of choice.

Across the valley there are 18 candidates seeking to lead our towns. Several people are incumbents, other races are unopposed, and some are newcomers to politics.

In Whitefish, incumbents John Muhlfeld and Frank Sweeney seek another term serving townsfolk. Muhlfeld and Sweeney have done a good job. They offer a steady hand to a small town facing big challenges.

Those who choose to vote decide how our towns grow. Places like Columbia Falls traditionally see very low voter turnout. A hardworking candidate could easily win by offering a positive vision to townspeople.

Early next month polling places will open in towns across our valley. Whitefish will likely mail out ballots as it has in past elections. Either by mail or by person, voting is your right and duty. It’s a day of reckoning in politics.

Elected councilors and mayors decide what happens in our towns. It’s the streets, sidewalks, and parks kinda stuff. It’s managing taxpayer dollars and making sure our town is safe and clean.

It’s that vision stuff. The tri-cities of the Flathead are consistently among the fastest-growing, most-visited places in Montana. The next town leaders will face issues like declining infrastructure for residential needs. Let’s face it; towns are busy.

In places like Whitefish, which recently witnessed the demolition of historic buildings like the Duncan/Sampson home and a Frank Lloyd Wright, it feels like the soul of town is being torn down and rebuilt. Columbia Falls and Kalispell each face similar gut-wrenching decisions.

The next elected officials face a multitude of challenges. They can’t do it alone. They’ll need help winning and governing. Voters choose whom to trust.

Hopefully lots of votes get cast. I suspect some regret skipping past elections. Others wonder how we got here so fast and who will lead us home.

Soon the snow will usher in skiing and shoveling season. Hopefully fall is long and those traditionally sunny autumn days return to make farm chores more pleasant.

Either way, work gets done. People are used to hard work in the Flathead. It’s a part of who we are. We choose to live here. We work hard, recreate outdoors, and expect our government to reflect our community values.

On the farm, we’re working garlic beds. Getting seedbeds prepared for cloves to overwinter. It’s a fall tradition pushing three decades.

It’s the routine, the traditions, the so-called process, those elections, which help us through the nonsense.

Do your part, get educated about candidates, and vote for our future. Help set the direction of Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell for the next four years with just one ballot.

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