Candidate Questionnaire

Ponderay City Council • Ponderay Mayor • Lake Pend Oreille School District

As we do every year, the Reader is offering a candidate questionnaire to help better inform you about the candidates. This week, we conclude our coverage with responses from Ponderay City Council and mayoral candidates, as well as Lake Pend Oreille School District No. 4 candidates. Special thanks to those who took the time to respond to our questionnaire.

Questions for Ponderay City Council and Mayoral candidates:

1. What inspired you to run for office?

2. What are the top three issues facing Ponderay right now and how will you address them?

3. The LOR Foundation gave the city of Ponderay $100,000 in 2018 to plan the McGhee Sports Complex in Ponderay.  Are you in support of this plan?  How would you bring this plan to fruition?

4. Do you support the 1% Local Option Tax?

5. There is a lot of commercial activity in Ponderay. How does this activity benefit the residents?

*For mayoral candidates:

6. For the mayoral incumbent, what have been your biggest successes been? For the challenger, what would you do differently?

Ponderay City Council

Gary W. Kunzeman

Gary Kunzeman.

Age: 71

Years of residence in county: Since 1992.

Marriage/Family: Carol Kunzeman, married over 55 years, three adult children, two adult grandchildren

Education: A.A. Degree.

Recent or pertinent employment or professional qualifications: Ponderay City Councilman, seeking second four year term. 

How can voters contact you?: Ponderay City Hall.


1. I was inspired to run for office in Ponderay because I saw the progress with the past administration that was being made and I wanted to help continue the projects benefitting our community. This is election I am running for re-election and another four year term as city councilman.

2. I will continue to work alongside my mayor and council to help educate our residents and voters on why the Local Option Tax is so important to our community. I think at this moment everything hinges on the Local Option Tax passing as to where we go next. We will always have the issues of a small town population trying to keep up with the responsibilities and services of Ponderay being the large commercial hub of Bonner County.

3. The LOR Foundation actually gave the City of Ponderay $500,000 to plan and implement the sports complex. $100,000 to plan the complex and $400,000 to help implement the complex. I am totally in support of this project. The city of Ponderay has put on the ballot the measure for a Local Option Tax and if passed that will allow 1% of the sales tax revenue to stay in our community to use to build the complex. Without the measure passing it will take years if not decades to build the park if ever. Our community needs this complex.

4. Absolutely

5. Ponderay is the commercial hub of Bonner County. We have approximately 275 businesses in our town. We are a very business friendly town and we make it very easy for businesses to relocate here or start up. These businesses contribute taxes that help our community grow, they provide jobs for our residents, and gives our locals the convenience of shopping and services. We also have many hotels that support our city with local bed tax which in turn provides bus transportation on the SPOT bus – a free service to our residents which does not cost them a dime. Our local businesses also are very generous and contribute and donate to our local Santa Sack project, 16 years of providing sacks of goodies to our Ponderay children and seniors at Christmas. But with these wonderful businesses in our small town the amount of people coming to shop from all over our county, Canada, and Montana not to mention visitors who are here to enjoy our natural beauty and recreation areas brings a high cost to the 1150 residents of Ponderay. We must maintain our roads and provide police services to protect our residents and guests. This is why a Local Option Tax is on the ballot to help us with the projects that will benefit our community and the residents who live here.

Brad Mitton

Brad Mitton.

Age: 61

Years of residence in county: 61 years.

Marriage/Family: Arlene, married 30 years. Son Jarret attending Idaho State Univ. Pocatello, Id.

Education: Sandpoint High School.

Recent or pertinent employment or professional qualifications: Fire Chief, Northside Fire District. I have many years’ experience working with governmental rules and regulations, general public, administrative duties, incident command and emergency situations, demanding patience, critical thinking and compassion. 

How can voters contact you?: [email protected].


1. I have been a resident of Ponderay Idaho all my life, going on 62 years. I have been attending their meetings on a regular basis. I know the City of Ponderay has a lot of room for growth and is in the process of evaluating a lot of different projects. I would love to be a part of a well-organized city council to accomplish their goals.

2. (top three issues facing county):

   A. Water/Fire flows for the city. Work with the council and mayor to come up with solutions to remedy this situation.

   B. Sewer. Work with the council and mayor and Kootenai/Ponderay Sewer district to come up with ideas to supply the city with sewer for further development.

   C. Affordable Housing. Work with the council and mayor to figure out how to create more low income housing.

   We need to address each of these areas. Prioritizing importance, immediate necessity and determining what works well, what are the inefficiencies and who we collaborate with in order to overcome obstacles. Then we can work on funding. Adequate infrastructure is essential to growth and sustainability.

3. I am not against the plan as long as it has been thoroughly thought out, and we have reached out to our citizens to obtain their input and support. And the infrastructure is put in place, prior to construction and doesn’t put a burden on the City of Ponderay taxpayers. I am as interested as anyone else to see it become a reality. 

   (How would you bring this plan to fruition?)

To continue to work with the council and mayor and gather input from the public on what they would like to see as a part of the plan for this complex.

4. Yes, the initiative is on the upcoming ballot for voters to determine. The projects to be supported by 1-percent would be tough if not impossible to accomplish without this initiative. I see many areas the city needs funding through the normal budgeting process. I support the initiative as long as we have the support backed by voters, and that a concise plan is firmly in place with specifics regarding the budgets and future maintenance.

5. Residents benefit from the commercial activity in various ways.First, the tax revenue generated via the sale/purchase of goods and services. Secondly, commercial growth commonly equates to jobs benefitting Ponderay and Bonner County residents. When we see increased revenue and employment, opportunities to provide services increase. Supporting projects such as the current initiatives: Field of Dreams and the railroad underpass, as well as parks, street maintenance and safety; all benefit the residents.

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson.

Age: 56

Marriage/Family: Married.

Recent or pertinent employment or professional qualifications: Employed by Farm Bureau Insurance for 15 years and have served on the Ponderay City Council for 2 years.

How can voters contact you?: [email protected]


1. I chose to run for office because our city is evolving and growing. I have been a Ponderay  resident  for 25 years and see so much change. I appreciate our community and I would like to continue to serve Ponderay and  help protect and form it’s future.

2. Growth, infrastructure, and maintenance are three issues facing Ponderay. I plan on continuing to work with the council, city planners and all of the experts how to best deal with the issues. No one individual plans it all.

3. Yes, I support this plan. I am not an expert in planning things of this magnitude. As in the previous question, I would work with my fellow council, city planners and other experts to bring these things to fruition.

4. Yes, I support this because I would like provide our future generations with safe access to the lake and provide more recreational opportunities the Field of Dreams will offer.

5. The commercial activity in Ponderay benefits residents by providing more jobs.

Steve Geiger

Steve Geiger.

Age: 52

Years of residence in county: Over 27 years.

Marriage/Family: I have been married to my wife Debra for over 30 years. We have raised our three sons here in Bonner County.

Recent or pertinent employment or professional qualifications: I have worked at and owned In & Out Painting, Inc. for 27 years.

How can voters contact you?: 208-290-1966.


1. About 15 years ago I was asked a couple of times to be on the City Council and at the time I was too busy working at my business and raising my family. In 2008 I was appointed to the City Council and ever since I just like the challenge and having a voice in our city’s future. This will be my 5th election which I have served 6 years on City Council and almost four years as mayor. It has been an honor serving our city.

2. A. We only have sewer and water to about ½ of our city, this is controlling and regulating our growth and we need to find a solution.

   B. Revenue sharing. Our city is the commercial hub of Bonner County, we have over 260 businesses, a work force of close to 3,000 and we produce over $18 million dollars in sales tax revenue for our state. The decades old formula only returns $120,000 to our city. If you would like more information on this subject please call me on my cell 208-290-1966.

   C. Regarding the sewer it comes down to whether or not there is enough capacity and the cost of the needed improvements to encompass more of our city. Basically it boils down to money. Our city relies on the Kootenai Ponderay Sewer District for our sewer needs.

   As far as water goes we are thankful for the city of Sandpoint for our water service. There is plenty of capacity and the majority of our city is in the water boundaries.

   The revenue sharing formula hurts our city and I have brought attention to this matter by talking with our local legislators and I have also talked with our Governor regarding this concern as well.

3. Yes I support this plan. We have been doing our research regarding the “Field of Dreams” property for over a year. We have had council meeting discussions, 8 or 9 park committee meetings and 2 city “Ponderay Neighbor Days” events where we received a lot of positive feedback about recreational opportunities. Our city purchased this property over 10 years ago for this purpose. What we have heard is having some kind of an indoor facility that would accommodate an indoor walking or running track around a field so our kids could practice during the winter months with an area for a community center. We would also have outside fields, walking paths, outdoor amphitheater and possibly an area for an ice skating rink. We still are currently working on this.

4. I am 100% behind the tax. Without this funding option our city would not be able to pursue “safe lake” access. During the summer months we have 400-500 people that cross the tracks illegally every month and with more people moving to Idaho every year the problem is only going to get worse. 

   For the “Field of Dreams”, I have lived here for over 27 years, my kids have played on the original fields over 20 years ago and there have been several attempts to try to get something started out there. About 10 years ago there was a recreational district tax proposed, which at the time failed. The last couple of years we have had a lot of interest in having a recreational site at the old U of I property. With the increased interest over the last couple decades in having some kind of recreational opportunities, I think that this would be a great asset for our city’s future.

5. We are the commercial hub of Bonner County with over 260 businesses, a work force of close to 3,000 that produce well over $300 million dollars in annual sales. Our little city with a “big future” does more annual sales than the rest of the cities and the entire county combined. Our residents have some benefits by being able to live and work in our great city due to how many jobs our city has to offer. Also when it comes to property taxes our commercial sector pays for 75% of all the property taxes that we receive.

(Question for the mayoral candidates only):

*6. I think our biggest successes as a city have been bringing our community together for our annual city clean up weekend and the “Ponderay Neighbor Days”. We have also continued our city Santa sack program. We have a very generous city that gives back to our community in many ways. I think we are good at listening to our city residents concerns like getting the old S&W motel cleaned up or any other issues that they have requested. 

   You should also know that our city council, city hall staff and our police department all work very well together and they are truly dedicated to doing what’s best for our city. I really appreciate all of them and I could not do this job without them.

Tara Tribbet

Did not respond.

Questions for Lake Pend Oreille School District Trustee Zone #4 candidates:

1. What inspired you to run for the school board?

2. What are three examples of successes for the school district? What are three examples of areas that need improvement?

3. LPOSD is seeking a permanent levy this election cycle. Are you in favor of this option? Why or why not?

4. The Greater Sandpoint area has seen a population increase over the past decade. How have those demographic changes affected rural schools within the district? How would you manage those changes?

5. How would you rate the school district’s level of transparency with community members and why?

Lake Pend Oreille School District Trustee Zone #4

Geraldine Lewis

Geraldine Lewis.

Age: 52

Years of residence in county: 25 years.

Marriage/Family: Husband is Jim Lewis, a native of Sagle. Raised four children through the public schools.

Education: Bachelors in Electrical Engineering.

How can voters contact you?: 208-290-7148. [email protected]


1. I have been a Zone 4 trustee for the past 4 ½ years and the commitment I have toward public education has only increased over that time. I also bring continuity and perspective to the School Board that is vital at this time. With a new Superintendent, I am the longest running trustee we have on the board. That experience is so valuable. Prior to being a trustee, I was involved in volunteer work in the schools that my four children were in: Sagle Elementary, Sandpoint Middle School and Sandpoint High School. I am also a board member of the Panhandle Alliance For Education. I see first-hand the importance of the entire community being supportive and engaged in the health of our schools.

2. The successes in this district are many:

   1. Excellent teachers and staff

   2. Our district ISAT scores have been above or at state average across all content areas

   3. The Homeschool Academy is a great example of how public education can fit the needs of all students in the district

   Areas that need improvement:

   1. focus on raising our math scores across the district

   2.  recruiting and retaining teachers

   3. Continuing to communicate with all community members.

3. In August, the school board voted to add an indefinite term supplemental levy to the ballot and let the voters finally weigh in on this important issue. We have been hearing from the community for several years that they would like the chance to vote on it. We’ve had a maintenance and operations levy in place for 20 consecutive years, being approved by the voters every 2 years. That is a lot of time and money spent every two years to renew what we all see as a critical part of our budget. I am in support of this ballot issue, because it allows the community to stabilize the current maintenance and operation funding. In this district we have a large geographical area with many small rural schools that come with added expense. We also have a commitment to continue our Career Technical Education programs and Advanced Placement classes. We are also interested in recruiting and retaining excellent staff in this district. These are all areas that rely on the funding provided in our existing supplemental levy.

4. Our district enrollment numbers have been slightly increasing over the past years and I think this growth is a reflection of the health of our area. The growth has been slow and steady, not creating a hardship in any one school. In fact, a few of our outlying rural schools still have low numbers, but it’s my hope that we never lose those schools. They are such a vital part of the smaller communities. We also know that as more people move into the area, the property tax base increases, making each individual tax burden slightly less.

5. We are a very transparent district. We post all our financials and budget on our website, keeping it up-to-date. We have annual audits that show our fiscal responsibility and oversight is strong. I know that Superintendent Albertson is eager to meet with anyone in the community who has questions or needs more understanding of how the district operates. He has already met with many people in these first few months of his new job.

Tara Tribbet

Did not respond.

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