Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In Ketchum, in with the new

Councilwoman Nina Jonas sworn into office; new council president named

Express Staff Writer

Newly elected Ketchum City Councilwoman Nina Jonas takes the oath to uphold city ordinances and council responsibilities at Monday’s council meeting, thereby beginning her two-year term. Photo by David N. Seelig

Nina Jonas sat in the front-row seat closest to the right aisle, waiting for her name to be called. A few feet in front of her sat the four Ketchum City Council members and mayor facing her from behind the long table at City Hall. And directly across from her sat Councilman Charles Conn, the man she'd momentarily be replacing.

A few minutes into the year's first council meeting on Monday, Mayor Randy Hall signaled Jonas to approach the table and take the oath for the seat she'd won two months ago. In the November election, she beat five other candidates.

Political newcomer Jonas even won the confidence of more voters than incumbent Council President Baird Gourlay. She won 564 votes to his 460, but Gourlay still sits behind the council table because two seats were up for grabs this election, and he had the second most votes.

Jonas raised her right hand and said, "I will" to upholding a council member's responsibilities, thereby walking over to Conn, who hadn't sought re-election. She took his seat, and Conn took her place in the audience.

"I'm excited to work with all of you," Jonas said to the council and then faced Conn. "And I'm terrified to fill your shoes."

Conn said in an earlier interview that he thinks Jonas has "all the right stuff" to be on the council.

"Nina is really unusual in that she actually grew up here," he said. "And she's a local businesswoman who knows what it's like to earn her crust."

Jonas owns Rickshaw Restaurant in Ketchum.

Conn also said a young councilwoman would be a welcomed dynamic change.

Hall and Gourlay were also sworn into office Monday evening. Hall was re-elected in November.

Hall said the night was "sentimental" for him, seeing that his career as a public servant would probably end at the close of this four-year term. He has served three years on the Planning and Zoning Commission, eight years on the City Council and four years as mayor.

"I'm certainly not one to say we did it perfectly," Hall said of the last couple of years, "but we did it altruistically and with an honest heart."

Gourlay said he'd like to end his four-year reign as council president, but not because he doesn't like the position. He said many people see him and the mayor as political allies, and having both Hall and him at the head doesn't help to "build bridges" with voters who lost confidence in the two incumbents this past election.

He said someone with a different perspective than Hall's should be council president, and nominated Councilman Larry Helzel. The rest of the council was on board, bringing the new face of the council into its final form.

As one of its first orders of business, the new council will continue the city's review of a Sun Valley Co. proposal to develop a base village at the River Run base of Bald Mountain.

Trevon Milliard:

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