Wednesday, January 12, 2005

County commission chair outlines vision

New commissioner, sheriff, and prosecutor sworn in

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County's newest commissioner, Tom Bowman, takes the oath of office with his family in attendance. Express photo by Greg Stahl

Following a unanimous vote Monday morning, second-term Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael was appointed to chair the three-member Blaine County Commission for the next two years. Michael proceeded to outline a vision for a county board that will work more proactively to address the ongoing pressures of growth. (See related story on page A1.)

The entire county's newly elected and re-elected officials were sworn in Monday morning at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. Newly elected County Commissioner Tom Bowman, Michael, Sheriff Walt Femling and Prosecutor Jim Thomas all took the oath of office.

Within minutes after being sworn in as the county's newest commissioner, Bowman made a motion nominating Michael as the board's new chair. Adhering to the county's term limit for a chair, Commissioner Dennis Wright stepped aside as chairman and voted in favor of Michael's nomination.

Michael was primed for the designation and read from a prepared statement.

"With the swearing in today, we have three full time commissioners available to meet daily, if needed, to address the numerous issues facing Blaine County as we face the challenges of precedent-setting growth," Michael said. "Over the past 10 years, the county has grown between 3.5 percent and 4 percent a year. Development in the unincorporated area of the county has consisted of small subdivisions, averaging between four and 20 lots."

Michael said the county is facing the potential for more than 1,000 new homes in several large subdivisions in the foreseeable future. If all of those proposals on deck were submitted and approved, they would constitute a 40 percent increase in the county's housing stock, she said.

"This magnitude of growth is unprecedented," she said. "I have long advocated planning for the future. It is critical to talk about what we want to see in the county, to get input from our cities and citizens about their vision of growth, to start thinking and acting regionally about how we protect water quality, water quantity, provide affordable housing, deal with traffic issues, the airport, and make sure that we can provide essential services to meet the growth."

Michael also bestowed her colleagues with a few accolades.

"Blaine County is fortunate to have experienced commissioners who bring a host of skills to the office. Dennis Wright is starting his ninth year on the board and brings common sense, know-how and fiscal conservatism to the debate, and with his sense of humor we will always have wonderful debates, and even when we disagree there are no hard feelings," she said.

She said Bowman brings new vision and energy to the board. His 10 years of experience on the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission and experience running a business will add to the chemistry of the board.

"As for my skills, I think that my can-do attitude, willingness to look at the big picture, listen to people and ability to follow through and get things done will complement those of my colleagues," she said.

Wright and Bowman were not very wordy. Wright said several of the county clerks have been a pleasure to work with and thanked Michael for her kind words.

Bowman said he hopes the electorate will trust his judgement.

"I am excited about the future of Blaine County under the direction of the newly constituted board of commissioners and our other elected officials and staff who work so hard and are committed to keeping Blaine County so special...I look forward to the next two years of my term and helping to meet the challenges that are before us."

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