Friday, March 17, 2006

Race for south county seat intensifies

Filing deadline for Blaine County Commission race is today

Express Staff Writer

The race for the Blaine County Commission seat representing the county's south district now includes five candidates, setting the stage for a heated battle leading up to the May 23 primary.

Today, March 17, is the final day for candidates to file with the Blaine County clerk. The deadline is 5 p.m.

Here is a rundown of the open seats and the candidates who had filed by Thursday.

Commissioner District 1 (south county)

Democrats Larry Schoen, Tammy Eaton and James R. Super, and Republican Dale K. Ewersen previously announced their intentions to run for county commissioner in the south district in late January. Since that time, Bellevue resident and Democrat Carl B. Johnston has also thrown his hat in the ring.

The seat is being vacated by Commissioner Dennis Wright, who's retiring after 10 years of service with the county.

Schoen, Eaton and Ewersen all have experience in government.

Ewersen is a former Bellevue mayor and councilman who regularly attends county meetings. Schoen, who owns a farm along Silver Creek, is the current chairman of the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission. Eaton is a five-year veteran of the Bellevue City Council and recently completed a 10-year run as the civil administrator of the Blaine County Sheriff's Department.

Super, who's an Idaho native and the owner of Super Outfitter Adventures of Sun Valley, ran against Wright for the District 1 seat in 2002.

Johnston, who owns the Minnie Moore Mine west of Bellevue, has a history with Blaine County, but not in government.

In 1999, the county ordered Johnston to cease gravel extraction, mining, blasting or bulldozing on his 283-acre property, citing a violation of county zoning regulations.

In August 2005, 5th District Court Judge Robert Elgee ruled that Johnston could continue mining activities but that he had to clean up a tailings pile on his property. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the tailings pile contained 18,000 parts per million of lead.

Johnston pledged in September that he would clean up the site and cover it with a grassy pasture "the community can be proud of by next spring."

Johnston could be reached for comment.

The other candidates all have similar concerns: addressing future population growth, which is estimated to increase by 50 percent over the next 20 years; the skyrocketing price of homes and a lack of affordable housing; and preserving the county's open space and natural resources.

Commissioner District 3 (north county)

Blaine County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael has served in this position since 2000.

She is running again and will be challenged by Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia, who's running as an Independent.

Michael's ties to the Wood River Valley stretch back 25 years, when she was hired as the manager of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce.

A former co-owner of Sun Valley Trekking, she's an avid backcountry skier, conservationist, and proponent of human-powered recreation in the backcountry.

Her focus with the county includes managing growth, increasing affordable housing (there are currently only about 50 affordable housing units in the entire county), budget oversight and adoption of fiscal policies, maintaining access to public lands, and increasing public involvement in county decision-making.

Garcia, 62, is a 20-year resident of Ketchum known for being a watchdog of city government. He's run for numerous local government positions, most recently mayor of Ketchum in 2005, a race won by Randy Hall. He regularly attends city and county meetings and is vocal about his views.

Garcia, who could not be reached to discuss why he's running for county commissioner, has expressed concerns in the past that citizens aren't given enough of a voice, and the soul of the Wood River Valley is dying due to the expensive cost of living and lack of affordable housing.

"We've gone from a tourist economy to a second-home service economy," Garcia said in October. "No one can afford to live here anymore but the very wealthy people."

Garcia is also a firm believer that everybody needs to work together to solve the problems facing the valley.

County clerk, treasurer, and assessor

After serving eight years as the Blaine County clerk, Marsha A. Riemann is retiring.

"I love my job, but at some point you need to retire," she said.

Democrat Jo Lynn Drage, who is currently the Blaine County chief deputy, is running unopposed for the position.

Blaine County Treasurer Vicki Dick and Assessor Valdi Pace are both running again for their respective positions. They were both running unopposed as of Thursday afternoon.

Peter Dyndiuk, a Republican from Hailey, and Rosalind Kipping, a Democrat from Hailey, are running as the precinct committeemen.

The general election is Nov. 7.

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