Wednesday, January 3, 2007

For Shafran, it?s one year and counting

Mayor says ?stars aligned? when investment executive joined Ketchum City Council

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Councilman Steven Shafran was an international corporate success but a political neophyte when he was appointed to the council one year ago today. Mayor Randy Hall was elated when he agreed to join local government, later saying he took a lead role in the community?s development. Shafran said his experience has been stimulating and rewarding. ?I?m really appreciative of this year,? he said.

Randy Hall's appeal for support in his quest to become mayor of Ketchum gave him a contact that would help shape his administration and the community revitalization process he swore to undertake.

Hall and Steve Shafran were introduced by mutual acquaintance Buzz Bradshaw, a Ketchum resident.

"He kept telling me, 'You've gotta meet this Steve Shafran guy,'" Hall said.

A short discussion left an impression on Hall, who in November 2005 was elected mayor. That election, though, left a vacancy on the City Council and left Hall to select his replacement.

"Only one name jumped out at me," Hall said. "People really doubted Steve would do it, but I went ahead and called him."

"He said he was honored and he wasn't going to tell me no," he added. "But he said he would get back to me. I called up everybody I knew who knew him and said, 'Hey, we've got to put a full-court press to get this guy.'"

A few weeks later, Shafran relented. He was sworn into office Jan. 3, 2006.

During his first year in the job, the city held multiple town hall gatherings, public hearings and a plethora of meetings in dealing with the overhaul of ordinances and implementation of a downtown master plan.

"It's hard to put into words what Steve contributed to that," Hall said. "He's incredibly smart and brings business skill sets to the council at a time when the city needs it."

When appointed, Shafran and his family had been full-time residents of the valley for only a year and a half, although he had been a frequent visitor for 40 years.

He owns an investment advisory company based in China. He sits on boards of large companies in Hong Kong, and he was a partner in Goldman Sachs.

Business acumen was something Ketchum was going to need, Hall said, if the city was going to tackle issues like affordable housing, the possible River Run annexation and urban redevelopment.

"He's got his fingerprints on all the significant things we're doing," Hall said. "The city needed somebody like Steve ... and along came Steve. He's a guy who typically wouldn't be interested in politics and all of a sudden he finds himself in a lead role in the development of our community. The stars aligned.

"I can't believe he took the job."

All the work ahead of the council and city staff kept officials busy, but also helped Shafran to set a pace for action.

"2006 was a good year for someone like me to be on the council," he said. "It's been big, important stuff ... I tried to be very goals- and process-oriented."

Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz said the background Shafran brought was instrumental during the code revision process in understanding developers' financial models and making sense out of them.

"I thought it was fascinating how much blustery talk they had about inclusionary zoning percentages, and after they met Steve and Michael Carpenter I didn't hear one word about the issue," Moniz said.

"Steve has impressed me overall in that he's become part of a team that gets the business issues, understands the concepts and is able to move forward rather than stagnating in paralysis," he added. "I don't want to single him out with his talents, but he certainly has certain skills and the council has relied on him to understand things better so they make better decisions."

That business proficiency, however, isn't accompanied by fluency in every governing aspect.

"The council has different strengths," Moniz said. "He doesn't have the experience some of the other council members have in dealing with planning and zoning issues, so he relies on other council members in that arena."

Shafran adjusted to political processes, some more easily than others.

The openness in government, as opposed to corporate boards, has prevented him from private group discussions where all options are up for debate. The part-time nature of the job also inhibits the development and exchange of ideas that occur when people work side-by-side on a daily basis, he said.

The Community Development Corporation is one of the arenas where Shafran's imprint is evident.

"The organization of the CDC, the way we designed committees—it's a big departure from the past," he said.

Just a few weeks after Shafran's appointment, his wife, Janet, was killed in a plane crash in California.

"It makes my heart heavy and makes me really sad what's happened to him," Hall said. "But he stuck it out."

Shafran said being a part of the council helped him deal with the tragedy.

"The City Council ... was really something I could dig my teeth into, and it was a healthy outlet because I was looking for something to do," he said. "It's been stimulating and rewarding. People have been so nice to me. From the day I took the job until as recently as two days ago, people have come up and thanked me. That's the pay. I'm genuinely grateful. I'm this new guy who showed up in town, and people have trusted me."

Although he's won over many people, Shafran could face wider judgement this November when his seat is up for election. He's not sure, though, if he'll be part of the race.

"I thought about it, and I've decided I haven't decided anything," he said.

He'll mull that decision during the course of the year while weighing the Community Development Corporation and other entities' where his skills may be most valuable.

"It's my judgement," Hall said, "that there's room for Steve in this government for a long time to come."

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