Friday, November 9, 2007

Sun Valley shakeup turns congenial

Willich and Briscoe speed to catch up on details

Express Staff Writer

Jon Thorson Dewayne Briscoe

Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson this week said he is disappointed—and somewhat surprised—he was not re-elected a second term in office Tuesday, Nov. 6. Nonetheless, he extended words of congratulations to his opponent, mayor-elect Wayne Willich.

Despite his disappointment that he may have lost the race over a debate about recycling and city support of the YMCA in Ketchum, Thorson offered his help for the transition in leadership. Willich, a retired Boeing executive, beat the incumbent by 43 votes, 265 votes to Thorson's 222.

"It surprised me," Thorson said. "I loved the job and I was looking forward to moving forward. I wish Mr. Willich well. I think he has a lot to do to catch up. But, I am sure he will."

He added, "I think (Willich) was as surprised as I was."

Sun Valley city elections also included races for a two-year City Council term and two four-year City Council seats. Dave Chase, owner of a valley news and commentary Web site, won the two-year term in a close contest against Milt Adam. Candidates Joan Lamb and Dewayne Briscoe both succeeded in their bids for four-year terms on the council.

Eager to get on the ball, Willich arrived early Wednesday morning in time to get one of the first papers off the Idaho Mountain Express delivery truck to read the late-breaking election results.

"I am very excited to serve the city of Sun Valley and I hope to deliver," he said.

Initial reactions from victors were mixed after an election that seemed to show a mixed message from voters.

"The results were confusing," said Joan Lamb, the sitting Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman who took the most votes in the three-way race for the two four-year seats.

Lamb earned 260 votes. Briscoe earned 244 votes and incumbent Blair Boand received 233 votes. Lamb and Briscoe will join Chase and Councilman Nils Ribi under Willich's administration.

As an initial reaction to the outcome of the close race, Lamb said she was not excited to serve with a councilman who had referred to her as a member of the "Dog and Cat Committee" during the Pizza and Politics forum. But, she said she is a positive person and would focus on the future and a better understanding of the message voters are sending.

Briscoe, the man behind the Pizza and Politics comment, said he went to bed very disappointed Tuesday night.

"People started waking me up about midnight. Calls have been coming in all morning," Briscoe said in an interview Wednesday. "I am feeling really gratified that people have confidence in me to get the job done and I am not going to let them down."

Briscoe elaborated, adding that he hoped that Willich would call a retreat as soon as possible so all Sun Valley elected officials could get together and get to know each other better, both socially and for the purposes of serving citizens.

"I was surprised in my own race," Briscoe said, explaining that despite the mudslinging of the campaign season and a sense that there was strong dissatisfaction in the city, he hoped to allay concerns that he might be a bull in a china shop. "I'll start on where this council wants to go. I think if all four of us start out with the accommodation that we love this valley and this city, I think we can work out any differences that we may have."

Briscoe said he is surprised that Adam lost in his bid to serve the city.

"Nothing against Dave ... he's really bright, but the feeling I got is that it was Milt's turn. Hopefully, we can convince Milt to contribute if he is willing. He would be a good force for the council and the city."

In Briscoe's view, the election was a message from voters "to reassess the direction of the city."

Lamb said she is concerned that voters are shunning Sun Valley Co. owners Earl and Carol Holding because the Holdings had endorsed Thorson. She said she hopes to better understand what voters want to see in the future relationship with the resort.

On Wednesday, Briscoe refined his vision for the city, which has strong similarity to Lamb's vision.

"I think that the council all agrees that we have to work closely with the Holdings to assist them in their vision and still have the advice and consent of a governmental body," he said. "I think the other thing, of course, is that we have to continue the regional cooperation with the county, the other cities, the highway, the airport, workforce housing ... all the regional issues. A cooperative effort is needed."

The newcomers said they have much to learn. Lamb said she and the sitting leaders of the city and staff have a challenge ahead of them to help Willich and Briscoe get up to speed—both are starting without direct experience in Sun Valley city government.

Another common concern raised this week that did not get raised during the campaign was that of water quantity and quality.

"I would like to see the study about the capacity of the aquifer. How much do we have?" Briscoe asked, hoping that his experience with monitoring water quality in Washington state would help. "What can this county accommodate?"

As a final note, Thorson reaffirmed that he would help the new administration to the best of his ability.

"I don't have any resentment. I wish I could do it. That's the way the ball bounces today," he said. "I would do anything for the good of the community."

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