Primary Election: Mix v. Bowman and
Femling v. England
Candidates square off in final debate
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County Commission and Blaine County
Sheriff hopefuls converged on stage last week to hash out their positions for
the benefit of county voters.
Blaine County Commission candidates
Mary Ann Mix, the incumbent, and Tom Bowman, the challenger, smiled for the
camera last week. Both are Democrats and no Republican filed for the District 2
seat. So, Primary Election voters will decide Tuesday who sits in it next year.
Express photo by David N. Seelig
The event was sponsored by Citizens for
Smart Growth and filmed so it could be televised this week on KSVT’s program
"Perspective." About 40 local residents attended the event at the Liberty
Theatre in Hailey on Thursday, May 13. A panel of four county residents posed
questions to the candidates.
Blaine County Commission candidates Mary
Ann Mix and Tom Bowman, both Democrats, covered an array of topics during their
hour-long portion of the debate. They discussed regional planning, sustainable
planning, the county’s comprehensive plan, water conservation, airport issues,
Highway 75, affordable housing and mass transit, to name a few.
Differences emerged on several issues.
Notably, Bowman was emphatic that he could help things move along more quickly
than under Mix’s purview. Mix generally displayed her vast knowledge of local
issues and day-to-day operations at the county courthouse. She also drew on her
experience from the numerous meeting chambers where she sits on a number of
When asked about the county’s progress
with a night sky ordinance that would limit the amount of light that county
residents could emit, Mix noted that the county is currently regulating light
through its subdivision ordinance.
Bowman pointed out that the county P&Z
completed work some years ago on a draft lighting ordinance.
"As I understand it, that thing’s ready to
go," he said. "Get me elected. It will be done in four months."
On planning issues in general, Bowman said
he could help the county to be more proactive.
"We got a cell-phone ordinance only after
a tower was proposed. We got a berm ordinance only after a huge berm was
proposed right on the highway," he said.
He called for a new staff member in the
county planning department to help with a heavy workload.
Mix, on the other hand, touted the
accomplishments the county has already made.
"We need to start small, and we have
started small with our efforts on (police and fire) consolidated dispatch," she
said, adding that the community needs to become more regionally oriented.
On the study of Highway 75, Mix said she
would support whatever scientific data come from the ongoing study of the
transportation corridor. Bowman said he supports a four-lane highway, "because
we’re going to need it with the population that’s coming."
Another key difference between the
candidates was on a proclamation the county commissioners issued last winter.
The document made clear the commissioners’ unwavering opposition to war with
For some county residents, that move
crossed a line. Bowman sided with those who objected to the move. Mix vehemently
defended the commission’s decision.
"National and international decisions
affect Blaine County," she said. "I respectfully reserve the right to comment on
them as a commissioner."
Bowman, on the other hand, said there are
hundreds of other things the commission could have done that would have been a
better expenditure of time.
"Did it make a difference? Probably not,"
he said. "On national security issues, I don’t think the county commissioners
have any business representing this county."
Primary opponents for sheriff, incumbent
Walt Femling and challenger Steve England, both Republicans, faced off on
Emergency 911, consolidated dispatch, the need for a new county jail and ongoing
security concerns in a prominent resort destination.
In a general sense, the two candidates
agreed on the need for a new jail, for E-911 and for a consolidated dispatch
center. They differed, however, on several sub-points.
Steve England Challenger sheriff
England said he would like to fund a new
jail by putting the issue to a committee of "non-biased taxpayers," before
asking for public support in the form of a bond election.
Femling, on the other hand, said funding
and construction of a new jail is not the sheriff’s issue. It is the
responsibility of the Blaine County Commission. He opined nonetheless.
"We should only go to a vote if we want to
raise taxes," he said. "I don’t want to raise taxes."
England attempted to corner Femling on
several personnel issues. He charged there is one supervisor for every 2.4
employees in the 44-person department.
Jerry "Walt" Femling Incumbent
"That’s a very, very disturbing ratio," he
said. "I’d like to see it one (supervisor) to six or seven employees."
He also contended that none of the
sheriff’s office employees speak Spanish in a community with a growing
contingent of Spanish-speaking immigrants.
"We have over 200 years of experience on
our patrol side alone," he said. He said he hasn’t had a patrol officer leave
the office for three or four years.
"Our team is intact," Femling said.