Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Davis hopes to lead Hailey

Veteran councilman announces run for mayor?s office

Express Staff Writer

Veteran Hailey City Councilman Rick Davis announced his candidacy for mayor on Friday, Aug. 3. Photo by Willy Cook

After 16 years as a Hailey City Council member, Rick Davis wants to change the way he serves the city.

Davis announced on Friday, Aug. 3, that he will run for the office of mayor in November's city election. Susan McBryant, who has held the city's top post for the last five years, has announced she will vacate the position.

Standing underneath the awning in front of the Hailey Public Library during a sudden summer thunderstorm Friday afternoon, Davis said his goal as mayor would be to help Hailey transition into the business hub of the Wood River Valley.

"There's a misconception that businesses are thriving, when in reality they're struggling," he said.

Davis, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor against Brad Siemer in the 1998 election, said the city has restrictions in place, such as parking and sign ordinances, that make it difficult for businesses to flourish. As an active member and former president of the Ketchum-Sun Valley Rotary Club, Davis has many ties to the local business community and said the city needs to do more to encourage further business development. This includes increasing the products and services offered, thus giving consumers less of a reason to shop outside the valley, as well as providing greater employment opportunities.

Davis said this would help create a vibrant retail atmosphere that would have numerous effects on the city. In 2006, while researching the viability of the local option tax, Davis and City Clerk Heather Dawson found that nearly 40 percent of the 2,527 homes in the city at that time were believed to be second homes. This figure was obtained through the number of homes without a homeowner exemption on filed income taxes.

"We do not want Hailey to become a second-home city," Davis said.

The five-year City Council president added that finding new water sources and obtaining ownership is of critical importance.

"It's a challenge," Davis said of making the potential change from councilman to mayor. "You need to be able to delegate but ... also able to surround yourself with great people."

Davis said there could also be better interaction between all of the city governments throughout the valley.

"Regional planning is a great thing," Davis said, touching upon a point that has caused friction for the current mayor, who some critics believe has taken an isolationist stance when it comes to working toward countywide policies.

With no other mayoral candidate announcements yet made, Davis now stands unchallenged. However, he expects he will once again have to answer questions regarding potential conflicts of interest between his public office and his private employment at the Sun Valley Title Co. After accusations arose last year that Davis' position on the City Council gives him an unfair business advantage, Davis has maintained that he has never acted in a way that would betray the trust bestowed him by his constituents.

"It won't be an impediment," Davis said of working in the title industry if elected mayor. "I can recuse myself on land-use issues, just as I do now."

Even without his years on the council, Davis is no stranger to City Hall, having been born in the doctor's office that used to occupy the top floor of the building in 1949. Now Davis plans on walking the streets in a campaign to move into the office a flight of stairs away from his birthplace.

"It was the unexpected support I received (that) put me over the top when I was thinking about running," Davis said. "Ever since I made the decision (on Aug. 2), I've been really excited. I'm actually giddy."

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