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Incumbents reelected to Whitefish City Council

by MATT BALDWIN
Daily Inter Lake | November 15, 2023 12:00 AM

The three incumbents seeking reelection to Whitefish City Council handily retained their seats in the Tuesday Nov. 7 municipal election.

Frank Sweeney, Steven Qunell and Rebecca Norton accumulated sizable advantages over four challengers. Just over 2,300 ballots were cast in the election.

Sweeney was the top vote-getter, earning his fourth term on the council. He described his resounding victory as gratifying and humbling.

“It feels really good that the good work I’ve tried to do — and all the incumbents — was honored by the citizens of Whitefish by huge margins,” Sweeney said Wednesday. 

The election, he said, was “messy” at times with a crowded ballot that included a few candidates that he said held “disqualifying” positions.

“Their overall abrupt and disruptive approach, and condescending approach to the work that has been done by [Council] was not appreciated by the electorate and majority of the people that live in and call Whitefish home,” Sweeney said.

He said the incumbent sweep reiterates the council is on the right path.

“[Voters] really did say these guys have been doing the job …. they’ve made great progress and they’re not just sitting on their hands,” Sweeney added.

Looking ahead, he flagged housing, growth and the health of Whitefish Lake as key topics the city needs to address.

Whitefish voters on Tuesday also overwhelmingly supported a ballot question about reallocating a portion of the city’s resort tax toward housing initiatives. The tally showed 1,773 votes in favor of the tax question, with just 353 against.

Approval of the measure changes the allocation of the resort tax so that 10% is designated specifically for community housing development projects and programs starting Feb. 1, 2025. The city estimates that over 20 years it could generate about $27 million.

Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld, who was unopposed in his bid for a fourth term, said support for the tax reallocation shows city residents “recognize the intrinsic value our local workers are to the socio-economic vitality of our town.”

“This important measure will provide the city just one more arrow in its quiver to continue tackling the affordable and workforce housing crisis,” he said in an email to the Inter Lake on Wednesday.

In the Columbia Falls City Council election, Kelly Hamilton, John Piper and Kathryn Price claimed the three open seats.

The Columbia Falls election garnered 875 ballots.

Whitefish 

City Council (Three open seats)

Frank Sweeney 1,275

Steven Qunell 1,168

Rebecca Norton 1,063

Nathan Dugan 693

James M. Ramlow 691

Nancy Schuber 610

Kent Taylor 493

Write-in 14

Mayor

John M. Muhlfeld 1,751

Write-in 88

Municipal Judge

Caitlin Overland 1,660

Write in 21

Resort Tax

For 1,773

Against 353