In their first ever bids for elected office, Ketchum residents Larry Helzel and Curtis Kemp found ways to succeed. Both men were elected to the Ketchum City Council Tuesday evening, and they will assume office in January.
Helzel, an investment manager who has lived in Ketchum since 2001, was the clear winner from a field of six candidates, with 413 votes. Kemp, an architect, member of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission and 38-year resident, garnered 311 votes.
"I'm just really excited and really, really thankful," Helzel said. "And I'm very happy for Curtis Kemp."
Kemp, 64, similarly had kudos for his future fellow councilman.
"I would like to commend Larry for his strong showing, and I look forward to working with him and the rest of the council members and Mayor (Randy) Hall in the coming years as we work on some significant issues facing the city."
Helzel, 59, was quick to offer a pat on the back to local special-interest groups and media outlets for focusing on issues rather than personalities.
"This could have been a colorless election," he said.
He pointed to the involvement by the Wood River Economic Partnership, Sawtooth Board of Realtors and Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau as examples of vitality in the process.
"I really think this helped illuminate the issues in this race, and it turned it into something more than a recognition contest," he said. "I'm so happy for Curtis. If I wasn't running I would have voted for Curtis."
Helzel said that, of all the candidates, he believed he and Kemp have the time to commit to the job, "so the city will be the beneficiary."
"This is all about turning a ski town into a community," he said.
Kemp said campaigning was a new experience.
"It's been a lot of fun, obviously a new experience for me," he said. "I've never run for office. It's been exciting. It's been stressful. And now it's a relief."
Kemp said the results of the election were not surprising and said he thought Helzel executed a very organized campaign.
In the final weeks of the election season it became clear that the candidates were advocating for similar changes, even if they differed slightly on means and mechanisms.
Ketchum business owner and P&Z Commissioner Deborah Burns took third place with 263 votes. She was followed by Idaho Mountain express circulation employee Mickey Garcia, who took 233 votes.
Rich Fabiano, owner of Fabiano Construction and a member of the Ketchum P&Z, garnered 171 votes, and Greg Strong, owner of a local construction company and a former member of the P&Z and former member of the Ketchum Housing Commission, received 162.
The candidates campaigned to win seats vacated by outgoing Councilman Steve Shafran and Councilwoman Terry Tracy.
Two candidates, Ketchum Dry Goods owner Jay Emmer and Ketchum resident Jeff Inman, decided in mid-October to withdraw from the race, narrowing an originally expansive field of eight to a merely vast field of six.
Voter turnout was deemed consistent throughout the day Tuesday.
"It's been steady all day," said Deputy Treasurer Clerk Pat Bennett around 3 p.m. "There's a steady stream of people coming in right now, and this time of day it is usually a little slow."
In all, 827 Ketchum residents cast ballots out of 2,087 registered Ketchum voters, a 40 percent voter turnout.
The six candidates proved to have relatively similar campaign stances, and those constituted an overall perception that Ketchum's community and economy are ailing and need some props. Solutions ranged from additional parking to a universally advocated pursuit of additional affordable housing. All candidates also advocated for construction of a new luxury hotel.