In the town of Stanley the population is about 100. On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 70 people voted. The city clerk said Hannah Stauts, 22, won the race for mayor of the small mountain burg by a landslide—of eight votes.
Always considered a town with a streak of the Wild West, Stanley has never taken the role of mayor very seriously. In fact, the past two elections were decided on a coin toss.
Stauts, a Boise native, has lived seasonally in the Sawtooth Valley hamlet in Custer County for three years and permanently since May. As a firefighter, it was the money she made last summer that convinced her the salary—$250 a month—wasn't a deterrent to her entering the race.
"I started to learn about the history of Stanley and politics and meeting people. It's so small everyone has had their hand in city politics at some point. Since I had an advocational background and in politics, I thought I could do it."
A graduate of Boise State University with a political science degree, Stauts was a youth commissioner in her junior year of high school assigned to the Boise City Arts Commission while Brent Coles was mayor.
"It was my first experience in a business-like setting and with professionals," she said. "I learned a lot about speaking in public and how to contribute to a conversation. It was intimidating at that age but it was a good experience and I learned how to handle myself."
Her next experience in government was during college when she interned in community relations and communications under current Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.
"Mainly I worked with senior members of staff in his office, on odd projects, research, neighborhood relations. I took minutes at meetings, met a lot of influential people in city government and learned a lot about what the position of mayor is and how hard people work in his office. He's a great example of doing what he said he was going to do."
Presently, Stauts is not working but behaving much the way she did in college by cramming.
"Right now I'm diving into research, familiarizing myself with the city budget and the day-to-day operations. I'm trying to meet more people with knowledge and council members past and present. I loved research in college so when I first decided to run I started asking the city clerk about surveys and things. It's kind of fun. It's like what you would do to write something for college. Right now I'm trying to imprint in my head the municipal code book."
Stanley's big issue is similar to the one in Ketchum, 80 miles to the south in Blaine County, though not on the same scale.
"There is a lack of affordable housing. We have seasonal workers. Where do we find the money and do we have the land to build upon? I'm doing research for grants. How many people really need it? What are the businesses' needs? That's my number one thing to tackle. It's a problem for me personally. I rent in the middle of town. If my landlord didn't renew the lease I'd be looking for somewhere to live.
"The other thing is to bring back the nightlife in Stanley. A lot of people talk about how they miss the Stanley Stomp and the concerts. It really affects our economy. I don't think the implications of losing the annual Braun Brothers Reunion (to the town of Challis) were considered."
The fact remains for Stauts that Stanley needs someone to commit time and energy to the job despite the compensation.
"The city can run itself, between the city clerks, the cop and maintenance. But you have to decide how much do you want to change and influence," she said. "I need gainful employment and a place to live. Most likely, I'll be one of the only mayors in the nation bartending or waitressing.
"I think Stanley is going to grow and it's important that we be prepared for that by providing a more professional city government. For me, I consider it my primary job. My second job will be the one I do so I can do this."