Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Challengers file to run against Schoen, Femling

Voters will have choices in 2 of 4 county elections

Express Staff Writer

Larry Schoen Dale Ewersen Walt Femling Steve England

When Blaine County voters head to the polls this November, they'll have a choice of candidates in two of the four county races.

This year's general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 4. The deadline for filing to run for office was Friday, March 21.

Filing to run against incumbent Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen for the county's 1st District seat was Bellevue resident Dale Ewersen. Ewersen, who served as mayor and city councilman in Bellevue in the 1980s, ran an unsuccessful campaign against Schoen for the County Commission seat in 2006.

Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman has no challengers for the county's 2nd District seat.

County voters cast their ballots for all candidates for office, no matter what district they reside in.

Two other elected officials will run again as their terms expire.

Sheriff Walt Femling is among those. Challenging Femling will be Hailey Police Lt. Steve England.

Blaine County Prosecutor Jim Thomas has also filed to run again, but will have no challengers.

Speaking during a break in a County Commission meeting Tuesday, Schoen said he's running again so he can continue in his efforts to bring more openness to county government.

"It's very important," the former Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission member said.

County commissioners serve alternating two- or four-year terms on a rotating three-term basis. Because Schoen's first term in office was only a two-year term, he'll run for a four-year term this time around.

Schoen said one of his achievements over the past two years has been getting a handle on the requirements of being a county commissioner.

"It is such a big job with a big portfolio," he said.

Schoen said he's also shown a willingness to tackle tough issues that have been in front of the county for a number of years. He said those include coordinating the McHanville-South Gateway planning process, reevaluating the county's affordable housing issue and juvenile justice issues.

Schoen said he's also worked to be responsive to the needs of his constituents in the 1st District in southern Blaine County, a mostly agricultural area. He said concerns there have much to do with being proactive on water use and water planning.

"I believe I have a good relationship with my district," he said.

Schoen's challenger for the 1st District seat said the county needs to take a more hands-off approach toward businesses. Republican contender Ewersen said it's counterproductive for local governments to get in the business of overseeing private enterprise when they are by their very nature not efficient operators.

"They don't have to be. They don't have to make a profit," he said.

Ewersen said his background in the world of business would be a benefit to the county. He said businesses are better off when governments let them do their thing and "stay out of the way."

In the November 2006 vote, Schoen received 4,431 votes, or 60 percent of the vote, to defeat Ewersen, who received 2,749 votes, or 37 percent of the vote.

Although running unopposed this time, Commissioner Bowman said he's "planning on still working hard for the people of Blaine County."

As the challenger in 2004, Bowman easily beat incumbent Commissioner Mary Ann Mix for the 2nd District seat. Mix garnered 889 votes, or roughly 39 percent of the vote, to Bowman's 1,346 votes, or 59 percent of the vote.

Among his priorities, Bowman highlighted the need to be proactive on issues facing the county—"trying to stay ahead of the issues coming up and not being reactive to them."

Considering his nearly four years in office, Bowman said he is most pleased with how well the community came together during last summer's Castle Rock Fire. He said local residents who witnessed and took part in the outpouring of support during the fire are lucky to have been a part of it.

"It was definitely a defining moment for the community," he said.

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