News & Features

Two Candidates Compete for One Kalispell City Council Seat

Ward 3 is the only contested race in the upcoming city council election

Incumbent Rod Kuntz and challenger Ryan Hunter are vying for the Kalispell City Council Ward 3 seat in the upcoming November election.

Incumbent Councilor Kari Gabriel of Ward 1 is running unopposed. Sam Nunnally of Ward 2 of and Sid Daoud Ward 4 are both running unopposed.

Ward 2 Councilor Wayne Saverud and Ward 4 Councilor Phil Guiffrida both have expired terms and will not seek reelection.

Ward 3 Candidate Rod Kuntz

Kuntz is seeking reelection this year in Ward 3 after serving on the council since 2014. He has lived in Kalispell for 35 years where he runs his marketing businesses.

Kalispell’s future is a priority for Kuntz, which is why he focuses on long-term projects, such as the council’s efforts on pedestrian and bike paths in the city.

Kuntz says he hopes to figure out ways to tackle unfunded mandates, like Kalispell’s wastewater treatment plan, which he says has unrealistic standards.

With Kalispell’s growth, Kuntz said the council has addressed affordable housing by adding 151 multifamily units since 2016 with 871 more in the future. Developers have plans for 300 to 500 more, he said.

He says the additional units will add competition and free up cheaper housing for low-income families and individuals.

“Defining affordable housing is almost impossible because everybody’s situation is different,” Kuntz said.

Since Kuntz has been on the council, he says Kalispell has switched to LED lighting on the city’s streets and worked to become paperless.

“All that we can do, we’ve already done,” Kuntz said.

Kuntz says topical and emotional issues don’t distract him as a councilor, which allows him to plan further into the future.

“Kalispell will never stop growing,” Kuntz said. “We have a 2 percent growth rate that’s been consistent for decades. At some point, how are you going to plan for those people?”

Ward 3 Candidate Ryan Hunter

Hunter, Kuntz’s challenger, hopes to bring his background in regional planning to Kalispell City Council.

Having lived in the Flathead Valley for 10 years and Kalispell for four, Hunter works for the Flathead Valley Land Trust where he specializes in private land conservation.

“I’ve always been interested and involved in community engagement, and I have a lot of ideas and visions for how to make Kalispell a better community,” Hunter said.

Hunter hopes to apply his planning experience to efficient development while minimizing the development of open space lands. Hunter outlines three objectives: prioritizing more efficient development, better urban design and investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to reduce the rate of growth in traffic; addressing affordable housing; and achieving cost savings in city operations through energy efficiency, which includes a renewable energy component.

Through good design and development, Hunter believes congestion can be reduced with more bike paths and sidewalks.

Addressing affordable housing is another major concern of Hunter’s. He hopes to develop a housing plan starting with a community-needs assessment to identify gaps between income and housing prices. Following the assessment, he would like to develop strategies based on those needs.

“Affordable housing is a real issue in our community and I don’t think it’s being adequately addressed,” Hunter said.

Hunter also hopes to repeal a motor vehicle lodging ordinance, which was approved earlier this month. The ordinance gives law enforcement authority to issue citations to individuals sleeping in their cars on city streets, which Hunter says is a burden on homeless populations.

Hunter’s final objective explores cost-saving energy efficiencies in city operations. If elected, he hopes to implement renewable energy in the wastewater treatment facility once it’s upgraded.

Reducing energy from the grid is important to Hunter, and he says he will push the city to purchase electric vehicles and undergo an energy audit.

Hunter worked on affordable housing and development issues as a planner in Oregon and Washington.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify candidate Ryan Hunter’s positions. 

maggie@flatheadbeacon.com

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