Candidates explain pursuit of commissioner seat

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Republican candidates for Flathead County Commissioner Cal Scott, left, Rod Bernhardson, Mike Shepard and Glenn Kolodejchuk wait to speak during a Glacier Country Pachyderm Club luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel Kalispell Friday afternoon.

Candidates for the Flathead County District 1 commissioner seat gave a sense of how they would govern to members of the Glacier Pachyderm Club in Kalispell Friday.

Five of the eight GOP candidates vying for the late Commissioner Jim Dupont’s seat spoke briefly, fielding some questions from the Republican loyalist audience.

The winner of the June 5 primary election will advance to the November general election to face Democrat Gil Jordan.

To fill the seat until the end of the year, the commissioners are expected to soon select one of three people recommended by the Flathead Republican Central Committee.

All of the candidates for the primary talked about their experience in business and public service.

Cal Scott cited his work in mortgage, banking, real estate development and volunteer financial counseling.

“I need to be involved,” he said of his desire to serve on the commission.

A woman in the audience asked Scott about being photographed at an “Occupy” rally in Kalispell, holding up a sign saying, “$Arrest Domestic Terrorists$ Start at Wall Street.”

Scott explained that he was extremely frustrated about taxpayer money going to Wall Street bailouts and the corruption of people such as Bernard Madoff, and he had suffered severe financial losses since the recession arrived in 2007.

“I was P.O.’d and that’s why I went down there for my first and only public protest,” said Scott, who was apologetic for briefly associating with a movement that is considered leftist.

“I am a capitalist,” he said, declaring his conservative values.

Rod Bernhardson, a businessman from the Whitefish area, said he entered the race because “I thought it was an opportunity for me to get involved” and make a stand against government encroachment.

“I’m not a politician, I don’t want to be a politician. Unfortunately, I feel like I have to be a politician” to make a difference, he said.

Mike Shepard, a four-term Columbia Falls City Council member, raised two issues that county commissioners will be contending with.

One involves county policy relating to wastewater treatment standards that “could have far-reaching impacts on septic systems” regulation, he said.

The other is problems at the 911 Center, where Shepard worked closely with Dupont on the 911 board of directors. He cited the potential for communications problems at the center that could expose the county to litigation if not mitigated.

Shepard said that as a city council member, he was involved with approving 22 subdivisions with no legal problems. And, he noted, “Our county has a fairly bad track record when it comes to subdivisions.”

Glenn Kolodejchuk described himself as a blue-collar worker who has spent years in the timber industry, in addition to being involved with the Flathead Snowmobile Association, youth sports and the Boy Scouts.

He stressed that he doesn’t want to make promises or pledge changes for the county because the commissioner’s job is “to supervise, delegate and hold people accountable.”

He said he wants to put his experience to work in being part of solutions for the county rather than problems.

“I want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently,” he said, paying tribute to Dupont. “If I’m elected, I’ll try to make Jim proud.”

Doug Adams, a Whitefish businessman, said he is running with no specific agenda for the county but he just wanted “to throw his hat in the ring.”

As a Whitefish City Council member for four years, he said he supported the “doughnut” planning jurisdiction around Whitefish as proposed by the county.

He acknowledged that it is a “hot topic, but I think it is a topic that can be addressed.”

He stressed his interest in working with facts rather than hyperbole or bravado to effectively solve problems.

Adams said he frequently works with state and the federal governments and realizes how burdensome they can be for the private sector.

Government, he said, needs to get out of the way to greatest extent possible to allow for economic growth.

Other candidates who filed for the Republican primary are Ben Stormes of Whitefish, Chris Hyatt of Whitefish and Kirk Gentry of Columbia Falls.

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at jmann@dailyinterlake.com.

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