Doug Karper was first elected to the Columbia Falls City Council more than 25 years ago and still enjoys being involved with making decisions.
Karper, 67, retired after spending 27 years working for School District 6 in facilities maintenance, first joined the city council in 1993 after spending time on the City/County Planning Board.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Karper spent time in Great Falls with the Air Force, where he met his wife, Colleen. After Doug earned an Agronomy degree from Penn State University, he and Colleen moved to Columbia Falls in 1986. It wasn’t long before Doug started getting involved with city government.
“I saw that it was the city council that really got to make the decisions for Columbia Falls and I was interested in being a part of that,” Karper said. “A lot of good things happen in Columbia Falls and I wanted to be involved. I want to see things going in a positive direction and help make decisions that better Columbia Falls.”
Karper says he is in favor of a resort tax to help pay for much-needed city services.
“Part of our job is to look at every possible way to fund the needs of the city. I think the resort tax is potentially one of those tools to help fund the needs of the city without putting the entire burden on the local taxpayer,” he said. “We have more than two million people driving through our community every year that don’t pay a dime for the burden they place on our city. They positively impact our city by bringing in more business, but it puts a lot of stress on our public services like fire and police. I think if we can have those tourists help pay the cost for those services, that is potentially a good thing.”
Karper said he supports the idea of the resort tax, but it is still up to the people to make the final decision.
“Once it is decided how to structure the resort tax, which is still being worked out, it still has to be voted on by the people. I think some people out there think we can just push this through by ourselves. That’s just not how it works. It has to pass a public vote,” He said. “If people don’t agree with the resort tax, they can vote against it, but I think it really has the possibility to help us meet our financial needs with the least amount of impact on the local taxpayer.”
Among other issues being faced by the city right now, Karper says growth is one of the most important.
“Growth is always a challenge. We have a slow, sustained growth right now and I think that is important. We have tried to stay ahead on water, sewer and streets and I think we have done a good job of that. We see other cities facing problems that we would rather not have to deal with,” he said. “I think the previous and current city council have done a good job preparing and looking ahead. I think we have stayed on top of things. We try to be very conservative and run as tight of a budget as possible.”
As for the future of Columbia Falls, Karper says the council needs to keep looking for ways to improve the city while maintaining the assets it already has.
“I like to see us adding things, but we have to make sure we have the money and ability to take care of the things we already have,” he said. “We need to take care of and maintain our city parks, streets and bike paths. We have to be realistic about what we can do and not overextend ourselves.”