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Kalispell city council race is closely contested

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Oct 15 2013 06:22:11 PM MDT
Updated On: Oct 17 2013 03:51:28 PM MDT

In Kalispell early election voting begins Wednesday. Candidates running for office are beginning to ramp up their run for a city government position.

We took a closer look at the closely contested race for the Ward 3 city council seat in Kalispell. It's the only opposed seat on the Kalispell City Council.

“This is probably the most important city election that we've ever had," said Karlene Osorio-Khor, who’s running for the city council seat representing Ward 3.

The candidates all have a few things in common, but they differ when it comes to the future of Kalispell.

Jim Atkinson has held this job since he was elected 25 years ago.

"To watch and make, help be able to make some decisions that are important for our community, it's a good feeling.  It's great to be able to do that," said Atkinson.

Osorio-Khor comes from a financial background. "I've been involved in a lot of different organizations.  I'm the former chair of the impact fee committee."

Candidate Jason Mueller calls himself the 'Average Joe.'

"I'm just trying to do my civic duty.  I don't believe anyone should be in office for more than one to two terms.  All I want to do is step up and do my part," he said.

The three gathered Monday at a public forum where the most divisive issue we heard was the repeal of the airport expansion. That's the reason Osorio-Khor is running.

"Those of us in ward three and ward four have felt the impact of the city airport and the expansion of it is just something that affects our quality of life," said Osorio-Khor.

Mueller agrees, suggesting moving it. "It's not a good idea as far as city planning to have a small puddle jumper airport in the middle of it.”

Atkinson believes the expansion is beneficial. "Whenever you've got transportation in a community that's near an interstate, it's a good thing," he said.

Another big issue facing Kalispell is the revitalization of the downtown Main Street area, and since that falls within Ward 3, all three candidates feel strongly that it's an issue that needs to be addressed.

"Make it a growth-friendly valley but don't let it get rampant, but in a nice, controlled, manageable way that everybody will benefit and the valley will flourish," said Mueller.

"What is your downtown?  It's your identity, and some of the policies downtown are just punitive," said Osorio-Khor.

"The downtown could be a real tourist destination and I'm excited," said Atkinson.

While the candidates can agree on some issues, it's their differences they hope will help them stand out on Election Day.