Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Haemmerle wins Hailey runoff

Attorney prevails decisively in contest for City Council seat

Express Staff Writer

Stefanie Marvel Fritz Haemmerle

In a runoff election Tuesday, Dec. 4, Fritz Haemmerle defeated Stefanie Marvel in the race for Hailey City Council Seat No. 4.

Haemmerle received 466 votes of 724 total ballots cast, while Marvel garnered 258.

"Democracy is a great thing," Haemmerle said Tuesday night after being informed of the results. "I congratulate Stefanie for running a good campaign and really appreciate being elected."

The runoff election was necessary after Haemmerle, Marvel, and a third candidate, Geoff Moore, failed to receive the necessary majority of votes during the city's municipal election on Nov. 6.

In that election, Haemmerle had also taken the most votes, but narrowly missed out on the seat being vacated by Rick Davis, who will take over as mayor at the beginning of the new year.

Concerns regarding a decrease in voter turnout, which had been voiced by both candidates during the weeks leading up to the runoff election, were realized, as the number of ballots cast was significantly lower than in the previous election.

Although Marvel and Haemmerle said they spoke with citizens to maintain or increase support, the total number of votes on Tuesday night was less than 60 percent of the 1,262 cast in November.

Tuesday's result could mean a significant difference in how that council seat prioritizes issues facing the city.

While the Pizza and Politics forum in October highlighted similar positions held by the pair on a number of hot-button topics, the month between elections afforded each candidate the opportunity to emphasize their separate goals for the city.

Although both were in agreement when it came to supporting the increase of recreational amenities, affordable housing, the conservation of water, and moving the airport from its current location, Haemmerle and Marvel offered differing opinions on what they see as important challenges for Hailey.

With the revitalization of the city's downtown core on the minds of both public officials and residents alike, Haemmerle, an 18-year Hailey resident, voiced his concerns, focusing on an area that differed from his opponent.

For the former Blaine County prosecutor, a position held by Haemmerle from 1991 to 1995, the council's job should be to ensure that Hailey doesn't lose its residential neighborhood atmosphere. Having been raised in Ketchum, Haemmerle said that Hailey's northern neighbor suffers from the expansion of its downtown core, which resulted in homes being replaced by vacant business offices.

"The north valley is not a shining example of what Hailey should become," said Haemmerle, who started a private law practice in Hailey with his wife in 1999. "We can't define the business core too broadly and should fight to keep Hailey a place for homes, hopefully for folks who live here year round."

Haemmerle said it would be a detriment to the city if it lost the character created by the homes in Old Hailey and the rodeo grounds. To that end, it's imperative that the City Council work to preserve these symbols of Hailey's Western heritage, regardless of any financial benefits that could come from redevelopment.

Marvel, on the other hand, stated that the downtown core and the economic environment could be aided by transportation infrastructure improvements, such as widening sidewalks and pedestrian access to increase walkability.

Marvel, the current chair of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, on which she has served since 2004, also reiterated her commitment to making Hailey as environmentally friendly as possible. Her support for this aim was evidenced by the commission's recent approval of adding an environmental section to the city's comprehensive plan.

"It is important at this point in time to do our best to keep moving forward," Marvel, who works as a textile artist, said the week before the runoff regarding the city's efforts to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Speaking about Hailey's future growth, Marvel said that city officials need to ensure that the level of public services—such as police, fire, water, and sewer—are maintained in the event of new developments through impact fees.

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