Government in the Flathead Valley practically runs itself—at least that appears to be the thinking of would-be public servants. Candidates for mayoral elections in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell are all running uncontested, as is the city judge of Kalispell and two of the city’s four councilmen. Columbia Falls’ city council elections have only four candidates for five open seats.
Columbia Falls City Manager William Shaw says this is the first time he’s seen too few candidates since he began his job four years ago. Unless Columbia Falls voters write in a fifth candidate, he says, the rest of the council will be able to appoint someone to the open seat.
“I hope that it’s because we’re doing such a great job,” Shaw jokes.
More seriously, he notes that some of the decisions the council makes are pretty tough, requiring a lot of reading, research and meeting time. He suspects that many residents just don’t feel they have the time to participate. Also, “We don’t have a lot of controversy in Columbia Falls.”
Jolie Fish, a Columbia Falls city council member and the only candidate running for mayor, says she was surprised to find she wouldn’t be contested.
But had Columbia Falls’ current mayor, Susan Nicosia, decided to run for re-election, Fish says she wouldn’t have run. In this way Fish suggests that satisfaction with the status quo may in fact be at the core of the dearth of candidates.
Fish also says that people may believe they need a background in politics to run.
But, she says, “It’s for citizens. It doesn’t require an extensive background in politics.”
In the future, Fish thinks, the city could do a better job of getting that message out to its citizens.