Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Councilman to leave at summer?s end

Shafran resigns URA post Tuesday evening

Express Staff Writer

Express file photo Ketchum City Councilman Steve Shafran will leave Ketchum this later this summer but continue to serve out his term at least through the November election.

Following a year and a half on the Ketchum City Council, Steve Shafran is making formal his impending departure.

The councilman said earlier this week that it's time to move on with his life following the Jan. 24, 2006, death of his wife, Janet, in a plane crash in Carlsbad, Calif. That blow came only weeks after Shafran's Jan. 3, 2006, swearing in as a councilman.

But involvement on the City Council was one of the things that helped the 47-year-old work through the loss.

"Council was the first thing in my life that I hadn't previously shared with Janet," he said. "The experience was very therapeutic. I needed something to keep myself occupied. As the year went on I enjoyed having the occupation. It never occurred to me to resign, and as the year went on it became less likely that I'd resign."

Shafran was scheduled to resign yesterday evening from the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency's board, but he plans to continue serving on the Ketchum City Council at least through the November election when his seat would have been up for grabs anyway. In the meantime, he will move to Washington, D.C., in time to enroll his children in school this fall.

From Labor Day through November, he said he plans to commute or telecommute to City Council meetings.

Ketchum City Attorney Ben Worst said Shafran's continued participation on the City Council will not be a problem so long as his primary residence remains in Ketchum and he is a qualified elector.

In an unusual twist, the reason for his immediate resignation from the URA board is that he is planning to loan the agency $1 million to make it solvent before the new taxing district begins accumulating a projected $20 million over the next 24 years. (See related story on facing page.)

Even so, Shafran's time on the City Council has been something he said was extremely rewarding.

"I do think we have gotten a lot done in the last two years," he said. "I'm proud of not only what we've done, but how we've done it. The group of five, we have checks and balances. We respect one another and listen to one another. The teamwork and the experience has been, in my view, a pleasure, and I think it has worked to the benefit of the city."

Shafran said a lot of the City Council's momentum of the last year and a half had to do with timing. The city, its government and citizens, had already had a lot of discussions about downtown improvements, affordable housing and hotel development.

"I think a lot of those things were kind of really in the background and ready to come forward," he said. "To me, the sun, the moon and the stars were lined up. It was ready to happen. We all got to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The issue was getting it done, not whether or not we were going to try to get it done."

In January 2006, there was a changing of the guard at Ketchum City Hall. Mayor Randy Hall and Councilman Ron Parsons were elected. Councilman Baird Gourlay was re-elected. Hall, who had been a councilman prior, appointed Shafran to his vacated seat. Councilwoman Terry Tracy remained on board.

Among the city's accomplishments under the new administration are a new downtown master plan, Fourth Street redevelopment, affordable housing ordinances, hotel guidelines and new street standards. It was a lot of change in a small amount of time.

"It's a long list about which I'm really proud, and I think the mayor ought to be, too, and I think the town ought to be," Shafran said.

Shafran brought a new perspective to the city as well. He owns an investment advisory company based in China. He was a partner in Goldman Sachs and was chairman of that company's charitable contribution committee. He has, however, been coming to the Sun Valley area for more than 40 years.

Despite his corporate background, Shafran said it's not his ability to read a ledger that helped him thrive in local politics.

"The most important thing I came here with was a perspective that the council ought to work as a team," he said. "The bickering and squabbling that has characterized city government here—it's a silly way to run an army. My internal background with working with people was more important than owning companies in China.

"It's that experience, which is very general, that has proved useful."

Shafran said he plans to keep his home here and will return as much as possible during winters and most certainly during summers.

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