Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Commission races unopposed

Bowman, Michael unopposed in general election

Express Staff Writer

Their names are on the ballot, but it won?t be much of a contest for Democrats Tom Bowman and Sarah Michael to win the Blaine County Commission seats they are seeking.

In the May primary election, Bowman ousted long-time County Commissioner Mary Ann Mix, also a Democrat, by a tally of 1,346 to 889. He is unopposed in the general election. Michael, who is finishing a four-year term as county commissioner, was unopposed in the primary and is unopposed in the general election.

Bowman?s race was a rematch from 1996, when Mix beat him by 224 votes.

His win this year might bring a shift in the balance of power at the county courthouse.

?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,? Michael said.

Leading up to the primary election on May 25, 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.?

Though he lost to Mix in 1996, Bowman said he had 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 has 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.

Sarah Michael, a Hulen Meadows resident, is running for her second term. Though her first term ran four years, the second will last only two because of the staggered nature of the three commission seats.

She said she is running again, in part, because she?s having a good time.

?I?m having a lot of fun. It?s fun being a county commissioner and being in service to your community,? she said.

In her four years as a Blaine County commissioner, Michael has added a lot of feathers to her cap.

She has spearheaded public policy on weeds, public transportation, water quality, budget processes and the use of personal watercraft on Blaine County?s scenic Sawtooth lakes. She said she believes it is important to be proactive when it comes to public policy.

?We have a history of proactive leadership with (former commissioners) Len Harlig and Tom Bowman, and that sense of leadership and initiative is important to keep Blaine County special,? she said.

Michael was also critical of some of the ways things are done at the county courthouse. Bowman?s presence on the board could help her push forward some of the issues she considers important.

?It doesn?t need to take three years to pass an affordable housing ordinance,? she said, referring to an ordinance the commission passed last spring. ?We should hire long-range planners or consultants. I think we need to add resources?add the capability.?

Michael also supports hiring a county administrator to help oversee grants, budget processes, hiring and firing and to give general oversight to the county?s nine departments. It?s something she proposed early in her first term, but her fellow commissioners squelched the concept. Because Bowman has also proposed hiring a county administrator, that is one change that could gain traction when both candidates are sworn in in Janurary.

?The amount of paperwork and minutia we deal with is ridiculous,? Michael said. ?Our meetings take so much time that we never get to the big picture stuff. I think Blaine County growth issues are urgent.

?It?s not something we can wait to deal with. I would like to see a stronger commitment from the board to being proactive.?

In the weeks leading up to the primary election, the race between Bowman and Michael had heated up when former and current commissioners chimed in on the race. Commissioner Dennis Wright and Michael supported opposing candidates. Michael backed Bowman, while Wright said Mix had the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of government, as well as the necessary vision, to continue serving in a beneficial way.

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