Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ketchum mayoral race takes shape

Shafran likely to challenge incumbent Hall


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident Phyllis Shafran has said she’s "90 percent sure" that she will be running for mayor this fall. She will likely be competing against Mayor Randy Hall, though the incumbent said he has yet to fully make up his mind on re-election. Photo by Willy Cook

With just over four months until the next general election, it looks as if there will be at least one challenger for Ketchum's mayoral seat.

Phyllis Shafran, a City Hall regular and mother to former Ketchum City Councilman Steve Shafran, said she is "90 percent sure" that she's going to run in the upcoming election.

"The remaining 10 percent is if someone else runs that's a better candidate," Shafran said. "I'm doing this because we need a change."

Over the past year, Shafran has attended most council meetings, often questioning and criticizing elected officials on matters ranging from the budget to the number of public hearings held on important issues such as the contract for service with the Blaine County Sheriff's Office.

"I want to see more openness and honesty," Shafran said. "And I would like to see a city manager form of government."

The debate over changing the city's governmental structure was first brought up by Mayor Randy Hall in March and will likely be a matter of debate over the course of the summer.

Another change touted by Shafran, who said she's "72 years young," is an attempt to even out the gender imbalance in city politics.

"There's never been a woman mayor and I think it's time," Shafran said. "There should be more women involved in local politics because it affects women more—we're the ones who shop."

Shafran said more needs to be done to help local merchants hurt by the economic downturn, including putting pressure on commercial landlords to lower rents for business owners.

"Residential rentals have come down, so why can't the big mucky-mucks that own these buildings [do the same]," she said.

Shafran said she wasn't sure if this is an issue that could be tackled by the mayor and council or by a citizens committee.

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Shafran could face tough competition if the current mayor chooses to defend his seat.

"I haven't totally made up my mind yet, but I'm learning toward running again," Hall said. "The city can be very time consuming and emotional, so I need to be able to commit 100 percent."

Hall, 50, said he's very pleased with what his administration has accomplished since he took office in 2005, including ushering in four hotel applications. He said there are a number of projects he would like to continue to work on, but that he is encouraged by Shafran's announcement of candidacy.

"The more people that run, the better, because it will give the community more choices," Hall said. "I'm serving at the pleasure of the community and if they elect someone else, I'm fine with that."

Hall said he would probably decide if he's going to run for re-election by the end of the month.

At the council level, former Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon said he's contemplating running for one of the two seats that will be up for election.

One seat will be uncontested by the incumbent since Councilman Charles Conn announced earlier this spring that he will not seek re-election.

Council President Baird Gourlay, who was not available for comment, has also hinted at council meetings that he is thinking of running again, but has not confirmed his intentions.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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