Friday, February 12, 2010

Six county officials will be up for re-election

Filing period begins March 8

Express Staff Writer

Come November, Blaine County citizens will face a full slate when they head to the voting booths.

Six county officials are up for election—two county commissioners, the county clerk, coroner, assessor and treasurer.

The filing period for all the positions runs from March 8-19, with primary elections taking place on May 25 and the general election on Nov. 2.

Tom Bowman: County Commission

Commissioner Tom Bowman will be up for a third term as the representative of District 2, which approximately encompasses the area north of Fox Acres Road in Hailey to the south side of East Fork Road in mid valley.

Bowman, 55, ran unopposed in 2008 and will have spent six years as a commissioner by the end of this year. His seat is up for a four-year term starting in 2011.

In seeking re-election, Bowman said, he's looking forward to continuing work on a number of projects, both large and small. Included is the long-term project to replace Hailey's Friedman Memorial Airport and relocate it farther south where the weather would cause fewer flight diversions.

"One of the biggest challenges the commission is facing is the replacement airport and getting it open before we lose commercial air service," Bowman said. "The budget is also a huge challenge, but it's a problem we can solve this year. We will at least have a solution, even if it isn't implemented [by the end of the year]."

The current county budget has $1.2 million less than the previous year's, and more cuts could be made for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Bowman said that at the state level, he's in a position to help influence the Legislature through his seat on the Idaho Association of Counties' legislative committee.

On a smaller scale, Bowman said he's excited about the community garden proposed for the vacant lot where the Blaine County Sheriff's Office used to stand, as well as the county's partnership with local organizations to sponsor grants for the benefit of the community.

Though he's a Democrat, Bowman said the job of a county commissioner is similar even in counties that elect fewer blue officials.

"All county commissioners have a job of solving problems," he said. "You could plop a commissioner from any county around the state and they'd be familiar with the type and scope of problems the county faces."

Angenie McCleary -- County Commission

Though she's been a member of the Blaine County Commission for the past year and a half, Angenie McCleary will be running in her first election this fall.

McCleary, 33, was appointed to the position in July 2008 by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to replace retiring Commissioner Sarah Michael.

A Democrat, McCleary will be running for the District 3 seat, which runs from the north side of East Fork Road to Smiley Creek.

Currently the vice-chair of the commission, McCleary is running for a two-year term and, like Bowman, sees the airport replacement project and upcoming budget as major challenges faced by the county.

McCleary said an integral role of the commission is to continue to increase communication with constituents throughout the county.

"So far, it's been an excellent opportunity to work with different people on a wide variety of issues," she said. "At times it's exciting and other times it can be demanding and frustrating."

One reason for the frustration, she said, is the tendency for misinformation to splinter the community into disparate groups.

"I'm surprised at what a low-trust environment we sometimes work in," she said. "It's been the most challenging part of the job.

"A major role the commission can play is meeting with as many people as possible to understand all perspectives and erase misconceptions. This lets people feel like they have a voice. The more disenfranchised they feel, the more they want to form their own group."

McCleary said communication with the public will be imperative in the upcoming budget process, during which the county will likely make a decision on whether it continues to fund the Blaine Manor senior care facility in Hailey.

"It would be shameful not to have good options [for senior care] and we can't blame all the county problems on Blaine Manor funding, but the reality is we spend $700,000 per year on non-statutory service," she said.

JoLynn Drage: County Clerk

Nearing the end of her first four-year term, County Clerk JoLynn Drage said she will be running for re-election.

Drage was unopposed when she ran in 2006. The two preceding clerk's elections also had lone candidates.

"I really enjoy what I'm doing and like being able to serve the people of this county," she said.

Though she's a Democrat, Drage said her job isn't political, rather "just really busy," with a significant portion of her time taken up by the creation of the county's budget.

"The budget has been challenging for the last couple of years and I'm hoping to keep working on it until we're back on top of it," she said.

In addition to the budget, Drage said, the other major responsibilities of the clerk include organizing elections, recording county documents and work associated with the court system.

Vicki Dick: treasurer

County Treasurer Vicki Dick is no stranger to county elections.

In November, she will be running for her fifth term and if she's successful will have spent two decades in the position by the end of that term. Dick ran unopposed in those previous elections.

Dick is a Republican, but said politics has little to do with the job.

"It's not a very political position," she said. "You just have to follow the law, so there are no persuasions one way or another."

Dick said responsibility for public funds is the main focus of the treasurer's job, in addition to helping taxpayers, especially in December.

Valdi Pace: assessor

County Assessor Valdi Pace has also held a seat in the county for long time. She's seeking her fourth four-year term.

Pace, a Democrat, ran opposed in her last race, but not the two before that.

"I like the challenge of my job," Pace said. "I like working with the public and have done it for most of my career."

Pace said public relations makes up the largest component of her job, especially in the current economy, which has seen a declining real estate market, a rare occurrence in the Wood River Valley.

"Contrary to what some people believe, if the value of a house goes down, taxes don't always do the same," she said.

Pace explained that if the county's budget remains flat and home values drop, the tax levy will have to go up.

"Every year is challenging, but the last couple years have been especially trying, and it will likely be the same next year because we're seeing more foreclosures in the county," she said.

Russ Mikel: coroner

The longest-standing elected county employee of those up for election this year, County Coroner Russ Mikel has held his position since 1986 and is seeking re-election for another four-year term.

"It's an old habit I guess," Mikel said with a laugh. "I'd like this arrangement to last at least another four years."

The arrangement Mikel referenced was his complementary role as owner of the Wood River Chapel mortuary.

"It's really the best option for the county because of the facilities at the funeral home," said Mikel, a Republican. "This way the county doesn't have to duplicate the facilities."

Mikel said that's probably one reason his job as coroner has never been contested in his many elections.

"I've tried to get other people to run, but I've never had any takers," he said.

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