Gil Jordan for Flathead County Commissioner, District 1
I look forward to a rigorous campaign that is open, fair, honest and informative for Flathead Valley voters, who deserve nothing less. Let’s let facts decide our leaders, not emotion or party affiliation.
The County Commissioners exert huge influence over the lives of Valley residents. They administer an annual budget approaching $80 million, with current cash reserves of $34 million, to oversee and make policy for a wide range of essential County services.
Those services include: Public Works (roads, bridges, solid waste, weed control); Health & Safety (Sherriff’s office, adult & juvenile detention, emergency services, health department, animal shelter, mosquito control); General Government (finance, courts, motor vehicles, elections, human resources, maintenance, planning & zoning, taxes, geographical and plat information, schools); Social & Economic (Agency on Aging, Eagle Transit, Extension, RSVP); and Culture & Recreation (Fairgrounds, Library, Parks & Recreation).
That’s a lot for three commissioners to be responsible for—every Valley resident is affected profoundly by County services. Voters deserve to be informed about Commissioner candidates’ backgrounds and qualifications to administer these funds and essential services in a way that benefits all Flathead residents, and nurtures the spectacular valley that supports our high quality of life.
The County and the Commissioners have established Core Values that offer an excellent guide that I fully endorse:
1) Accountable stewardship of taxpayer resources
2) Respectful and responsive communication
3) Professional service with quality and integrity
4) Proactive and innovative leadership at all levels
5) Creating a positive team culture that values all people
6) Safety and security throughout the county
7) Equal treatment for all
When Commissioners uphold these values, they avoid the “Tragedy of the Commons” where self-interest undermines the common good—or to put it another way, they can avoid the misuse of shared resources to benefit the few.
In more than 50 years of my working life, I have consistently placed community service above personal gain. I believe in the adage, “Everyone does better when everyone does better”.
Relevant to the Commissioners’ responsibilities, my work history includes successfully administering million dollar annual budgets, overseeing up to 40 employees, planning and executing major capital improvement projects, ameliorating a wide range of personnel issues and problematic human nature and behavior, and effectively working with people of all ages from kindergarten through the very elderly.
Currently I am in my 8th year as Executive Director for the Northwest Montana Historical Society and the Museum at Central School in Kalispell, having turned around this non-profit with 800 supporting members and no debt—when I began in 2005 they had 400 members and substantial debt.
Prior to that I was a Social Worker for 13 years with the Western Montana Mental Health Center, working with adults with serious mental illness at Lamplighter House, a job that gave me advanced understanding of human behavior.
I was the debate coach at Whitefish High School for seven years, coaching eight Montana State champion debaters, 30 debaters in the top eight at State, and one overall Class A State Championship Speech & Debate team.
Before moving to Montana in 1985, I served seven years as the Technical Director for the very busy 1300-seat La Mirada Civic Theatre, where I was responsible for all aspects of producing upwards of 300 events each year.
I have been a Flathead Valley land owner since 1978 and full time resident since 1985. I have been married to Kimberly Pinter for 34 years, and we built our own log home in the Coram wilderness.
Giving Back to the Community
In addition to paid work, I have always been an active volunteer in the community. For 25 years and currently I am a volunteer firefighter and Secretary-Treasurer for the Coram-West Glacier Fire Department.
I served five years on the Flathead County Library Foundation Board of Directors, three of those years as President of the Board.
I served four years on the Flathead Convention & Visitor Bureau Board of Directors, and five years as a guest teacher, all subjects, K through 12, in the Columbia Falls, Whitefish, and West Glacier school districts, making me very familiar with the inner-workings of our schools.
I was President of the California School Employees Association at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, California, which included classified staff contract negotiation and enforcement, useful skills for a County Commissioner.
Education, Health & Perspective
I hold a Master of Arts degree from UCLA, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Language Arts (English, Theatre, Speech and Journalism) from California State Polytechnic University.
At age 66 I am still running marathons, having qualified for and completed the 115th Boston Marathon in 2011. I have completed 35 marathons (26.2 miles), one 50 K (31.1 miles) and one 50 miler since 1993, and have run more than 25,000 miles lifetime.
When people get to know me, they understand I am not about politics, rather I am about service. In my opinion the County Commissioners have a duty to serve all valley residents, and the decisions they make should consistently reflect that duty.
If all three Commissioners represent the same political party, it seems a certainty that large segments of valley residents will not have a voice. I offer a moderate and moderating point of view that will bring some balance to the County Commission.
I’m listening. I welcome your questions and input. I’m a proven hard worker who gets things done, and I promise to represent all residents of the Flathead Valley.
QUESTIONS FOR COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES 2012
Answers, May, 2012, by
Gil Jordan for CountyCommissioner, District 1
1) JOB CREATION & PLANNING
Numerous recent studies have found that our greatest economic assets are the Flathead’s natural and recreational amenities. Do you agree with these findings? What actions would you recommend to help conserve these assets while still attracting businesses that will create quality job growth in our county?
Yes, agreed. Our Flathead economy is characterized by diversity, with no one sector dominating. Balance is good. To maintain balance county policy needs to encourage business and economic activity that compliments current success: tourism, retail trade, service sector jobs, healthcare, specialized services, and green businesses all contribute to our improving economy without damaging the natural environment and the recreational opportunities that attract even more healthy economic activity to the Valley.
Scenic beauty, clean air and water, and access to outdoor and recreational opportunities are essential to our high quality of life, and account for the county’s growing population that confirms our area’s attractiveness, and explains why our spectacular natural environment is an economic asset worth preserving. County policy should recognize, respect and reflect that reality.
2) PROPERTY RIGHTS
In addition to protecting the health, welfare and safety of FlatheadCounty residents, what role should land use regulations play in retaining the character and quality of life in the Flathead? What balance would you seek between individual private property rights and the overall welfare and quality of life of the county?
One answer to the individual vs. general rights question is found in the concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” where, if we’re not careful, self-interest undermines the common good. Or put another way, when individual rights trump public rights absolutely, the result is generally misuse of shared resources to benefit the few.
The County Commissioners must seek and find a delicate balance for this critical issue of land use regulation. No one believes a neighbor should have the right to create, say, a toxic waste dump next door that poisons your water well or soil. On the other hand, pointless regulation of activities which do not materially affect your neighbor or the common good of the community, should not infringe on an individuals right to enjoy and utilize private property.
The current County Zoning Regulations is a 231 page document. Careful review and future upgrades and revisions of the regulations should be guided by the county’s own stated core values: accountable stewardship of taxpayer resources; respectful and responsive communication; professional service with quality and integrity; creating a positive team culture that values all people; safety and security throughout the County; and equal treatment for all. I heartily endorse following those values to benefit all.
MontanaState law allows for the establishment of neighborhood-elected community councils, which give a more direct voice to rural communities in advising the county commissioners on development proposals and on long range plans for potential development within their neighborhoods. The county commissioners a number of years ago established elected community councils for the Bigfork and Lakeside neighborhood planning areas. Do you support the establishment and continued use of community councils?
Yes. In 2007 Flathead County adopted a Growth Policy that included the opportunity to develop Neighborhood Plans, consistent with the County Growth Policy, that reflect the intent of the clear majority of each community. There are currently some 17 land use advisory boards, planning boards, and community councils formed with elected or appointed local citizens to represent the many communities and rural areas around the County. The obvious and wise purpose is to utilize local knowledge and unique perspective to advise the County Planning & Zoning Board in making better decisions to benefit the entire community.
The Flathead County Growth Policy contains existing characteristics, projected trends, goals and policies for county-wide issues. Neighborhood plans provide more detailed information regarding land uses, policies and issues relevant to that specific neighborhood or geographical area. They guide that community from present to future land use through patterns and development consistent with the vision of the community, its goals, policies and specific characteristics. It makes perfect sense to encourage these regional advisory boards, and for the Commissioners to rely on the recommendations they make.
4) MAINTAINING THE IDENTITY OF RURAL COMMUNITIES
Through an extensive series of town hall meetings that were held when the Growth Policy was being drafted, Flathead County residents clearly expressed their most valued characteristics of the Valley. Highways lined with development compromise the collective vision of preventing communities from growing together and losing their unique identities. It also negatively impacts the flow of traffic between towns. These were two of seven important elements identified by residents during the visioning process. What can or should the County do to respect their constituent’s valued objectives?
The short answer is the Commissioners should listen to their constituents and respect their valued objectives. A longer answer acknowledges that there are differing opinions about both the valued objectives, and the specifics of how to achieve those goals.
Commissioners are administrators, but they are leaders as well. While the Commissioners should seek and respond to community input, they should also be pro-active in promoting the sorts of proven planning policies that have succeeded in other like-areas. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Cluster development, where like-uses are grouped together instead of randomly spread out, is a commonly accepted practice for preserving both the environment and the rural character of areas similar to ours all over the world.
Rural service centers cluster businesses together that efficiently and conveniently provide urban services, retail trade, employment opportunities, and even residential housing sites for the surrounding area while maintaining a semi-rural lifestyle. We don’t need to sacrifice our valuable agricultural land, open space and scenic wonders in order to provide locals and visitors with needed services. A bit of planning now allows a win-win-win of having solid services, healthy economic growth, and untrammeled open space.
5) WATER QUALITY
Recently the Whitefish Lake Institute released a report showing that there is septic contamination of the lake. Although all lakes in our drainage have not had the same level of testing, it is reasonable to assume that septic failure is causing similar problems on other Flathead waterways. What steps will you take as county commissioner to secure the protection of our water quality?
What steps to protect water quality? Pay attention to, and act on, the wide variety of available monitoring and regulatory information and resources already available. Sources like the 2010 Flathead Watershed Sourcebook offer the collective wisdom, diverse perspectives, and action plans of more than 60 individuals from non-governmental organizations, agencies, and tribes.
The Flathead County Growth Policy has four pages of goals and policy relating to water quality and riparian areas. There are extensive laws and permits relating to what can and cannot be done around Flathead Valley water bodies and waterways. A whole host of organizations are devoted to the Valley watershed and the monitoring of its health, including the Flathead Lakers, Flathead Basin Commission, Flathead Conservation District, Crown of the Continent Ecosystem Education Consortium, Flathead Audubon Society, Flathead National Forest, Whitefish Lake Institute, and the Yellow Bay Flathead Lake Biological Station, to name a few.
As a Commissioner I would rely on these scientifically oriented and thoroughly knowledgeable organizations to provide relevant and up-to-date information needed to make and enforce County policy that will safeguard our precious water quality in the Flathead. Despite the problems recently revealed in Whitefish Lake, the Flathead watershed is one of the healthiest on the planet. As a Commissioner, maintaining and improving our water quality will be among my highest priorities.
PO Box 130373
Coram, MT 59913
406 387-5814 (home)
406 756-8381 (work)