County Commission race enters home
Candidates agree election is about
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
This spring’s primary election for the
Blaine County Commission could measure public sentiment on whether the status
quo is working or if citizens are sold on the alleged need for more proactive
Because both commission candidates in the
one contested election are Democrats, the Tuesday, May 25, election will decide
who will take office in January 2005 to represent District 2. No Republican
challenger is seeking the postion.
Incumbent Mary Ann Mix will face former
Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Tom Bowman for the
District 2 seat. The race is a rematch from 1996, when Mix beat Bowman by 224
Incumbent District 3 Commissioner Sarah
Michael also is on the ballot, but is unopposed.
In interviews leading up to next week’s
primary, both District 2 candidates agreed that this would be an election about
change—or a lack thereof.
"I think part of this election is: Why
take the risk? I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve never had an agenda.
Why change what’s really not broken," Mix said. "This time, I think the
community really needs that proven leadership and effective coalition building."
Similarly, Bowman said voters should
consider him for a more proactive voice on the three-member board.
"The focus of my campaign will be planning
and getting the county back on a planning perspective," he said. "I want to do
something. I think there are a lot of things that need to be done that haven’t
been finished. I’m really interested in planning for the future."
In the final weeks leading up to the
primary, the race has heated.
Former and current commissioners are
backing their preferred candidates, and the candidates themselves are attempting
to make their positions more clear. If nothing else, they have plastered Highway
75 with pink and black signs proclaiming: "Re-Elect Mary Ann Mix" and "Bowman
Though he lost to Mix in 1996, Bowman said
he has more momentum this time around.
"I really have a lot more energy now," he
said. His kids are older. He has retired from the business that occupied the
brunt of his time. He also accumulated five more years of experience on the
Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, for which he served as chairman
during the mid-1990s.
Mix, on the other hand, has maintained
that if the county government is not broken, why bother trying to fix it.
"Balancing land-use planning with fiscal
conservatism is really important for Blaine County right now," she said. "How we
pay for our infrastructure over the next 10 years is important. It’s important
to not raise taxes."
Adding some spice to the race, Blaine
County Commissioners Dennis Wright and Sarah Michael have weighed in, and they
disagree about whom to vote for.
Michael, who considers herself a proactive
voice on the commission, is backing Bowman. She believes he would bring more
vision to the board. Wright said Mix has the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of
government, as well as the necessary vision, to continue serving in a beneficial
"When it all boils down to it, the record
is important," Wright said. "I would challenge the voters of Blaine County to
look at: What in Blaine County government has gone wrong? I don’t think you
could come up with a positive answer that things haven’t been done because of
her. She’s quite a leading component in ideas and process. She’s certainly with
knowledge of government and process, county process and legal process."
Michael reiterated that the election is
"To me, it will reflect whether the
citizens are comfortable with the status quo or if they’d like to see some
initiative in planning for the future," she said.
For her part, Mix said she is adept at
building coalitions and added that the time is ripe to begin looking at planning
issues from a regional perspective.
"We need to move forward and not let egos
get in the way," she said. "My experience and my depth in the knowledge of
this—building these coalitions—is really critical at this time."
In interviews and in a Thursday debate
with Bowman, Mix touted a long list of measures she helped implement and grants
she obtained for the county. She emphasized her work on behalf of open space,
mediation legislation that was used to reach consensus on a new medical office
building at the St. Luke’s Wood River Regional Medical Center site and land
acquisition for future infrastructure needs.
She also serves on no fewer than seven
Since announcing his candidacy in March,
Bowman has released a flurry of press releases targeting planning, elder care
and Mix’s meeting attendance record. However, he said the election, at its core,
is about looking forward.
He said he believes most of the prominent
issues facing Blaine County are planning oriented, but stressed that he can
handle the administrative side of things, too.
He began operating his own business in
1981 and said the endeavor was very successful.
"That has to do with problem solving and
planning and managing budgets," he said. "I firmly believe that the position of
county commissioner will have all those elements. It’s not like I’m a novice to
any of those.
From his years on the county P&Z, Bowman
said he is proud of a number of accomplishments. He chaired a citizen’s advisory
board to work with south county ranchers and other P&Z members to write the
county’s Agricultural Land Cluster Ordinance, which enabled development of
clustered home sites on smaller lot sizes instead of the original zoning that
encouraged spread-out development.
"There are so many things I want to get
working on," he said. "With the tremendous growth the county is experiencing, we
need a vision and a plan for the future, not just a short-range focus on
Mary Ann Mix, Democrat
Age: "over 50"
Occupation: Environmental planner/consultant
Why running: "I think part of this election is: Why take the risk? I’ve
been doing this for a long time. I’ve never had an agenda. Why change what’s
really not broken? This time, I think the community really needs that proven
leadership and effective coalition building."
Tom Bowman, Democrat
Occupation: Retired/part-time telephone repair technician.
Why running: "I want to change the shift a bit from looking at day-to-day
issues and looking up to the horizon to see what’s coming … There are so many
things I want to get working on. With the tremendous growth the county is
experiencing, we need a vision and a plan for the future, not just a short-range
focus on the day-to-day details."