Monday, July 13, 2020

Unterreiner’s leadership benefited Kalispell

| June 11, 2020 1:00 AM

The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce has some big shoes to fill as the organization looks for a new chief executive officer to take the reins as longtime President and CEO Joe Unterreiner makes plans to retire later this year. For the past 24 years he has worked tirelessly to put Kalispell on the map as a regional trade center and a community where people want to live, work and visit. Kalispell has benefited greatly from his leadership.

In announcing his upcoming retirement, the Chamber noted some of the biggest accomplishments during Unterreiner’s tenure, including the completion of the Kalispell bypass, the creation of the Kalispell tourism district and Discover Kalispell brand, expanded air service, and expanded education and workforce opportunities for area youth. Another big project completed on Unterreiner’s watch was the Glacier Rail Park and accompanying Kalispell core plan that will create a trail system through the city on the old railroad bed.

Unterreiner has been much more than a cheerleader for Kalispell all these years. He has led the city through both growth spurts and economic downtowns, always with the goal of strengthening and improving the business community. It will take some time to find his replacement, and Unterreiner has graciously agreed to stay on the job to facilitate the transition. The groundwork Unterreiner and his staff have laid over the years puts the Kalispell Chamber on solid footing going forward.

Local food banks have been on the front line throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure no one goes without food during this unprecedented time. In terms of essential services, there’s no greater mission than feeding the hungry.

The Inter Lake this week showcased the volunteer efforts of the small, but mighty West Shore Food Bank in Lakeside that began nearly three decades ago in a garage, and has expanded through the years to serve families not only Lakeside but also residents as far south as Elmo and as far north as South Kalispell. These days the West Shore crew distributes up to a ton of food weekly, operating in a community-funded facility built in 2012.

Volunteers rose to the occasion during the pandemic restrictions, converting the operation to a drive-thru only service to meet social distancing requirements. The West Shore Food Bank and every other food bank that goes the distance to serve their communities, deserve a heartfelt thank-you.