Monday, May 27, 2024

To the Whitefish community

by John M. Muhlfeld
| October 11, 2023 1:00 AM

As we look to the future, and the past, we have a lot to be proud of as we balance the challenges we face as one of the most desirable and authentic mountain communities in the West.

Our current City Council and residents have shown leadership in the protection of our local businesses, both in our downtown core and highway corridors, encouraging reasonable growth and development while encouraging private and public partnerships to make it happen. This Council’s commitment to our environment remains steadfast, including protecting Whitefish Lake and local water quality, and working with our neighboring state and federal agencies to expand recreational and public access to public and private lands.

The management of our city is not an easy job, especially when trying to provide services for a resident population of 7,500 and upwards of 30,000 during our peak season. Your City Council has done a remarkable job keeping that financial burden off the backs of our taxpayers and asking our visitors to help share in that financial burden through our resort tax and sustainability tourism fund.

Beneficial and managed visitation plays a central role in sustaining our healthy economy, as it does in most western towns. Our focus as a travel destination is to promote responsible recreation and the protection of the environment while fueling our local businesses. Our visitor bureau sets goals for visitation on protecting our community character and managing tourism responsibly and in a sustainable way.

We are one of the few municipalities in Montana that delivered a property tax reduction to our taxpayers - due in large part to the financial guidance of your current City Council and our city manager, department directors and staff. It is unprecedented in these times for a city of our size, with the complexities that we have, to be able to deliver a non-net increase in your property tax over the past three years. I stand proud of this achievement and give credit to our City Council, city manager, and staff.

We still have much work to do, with many challenges in transportation and housing. We will continue to work with the housing authority and Housing Whitefish to help provide affordable homes for our residents. We will continue to facilitate economic development with local businesses and keep a keen eye on managing growth. The work we do together will help ensure a sustainable, long-term model for this town we all love. Institutional knowledge is key to this success.

Your City Council faces these challenges head-on and is prepared to deliver solutions to keep our town vital and our community safe and prosperous for our families who choose to live and work in Whitefish. The decisions we make always have the best interests of locals, and long term residents, in mind.

Please cast your ballot this fall for our town election. Your input is valued, and appreciated, as we move into the next four years of governance with our guiding principles of keeping Whitefish a livable, business friendly, enjoyable, and friendly place to live.

John M. Muhlfeld is mayor of Whitefish.