Alternating between smiles and accusations, the two men vying for Sun Valley's mayoral seat touted their experience, demeanor and approach to leadership during the Sun Valley Pizza & Politics candidates forum Thursday, Oct. 27, at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge. The forum was the final of four such events valleywide this season sponsored by the Idaho Mountain Express.
Incumbent Mayor Wayne Willich is seeking another term, but City Council President Dewayne Briscoe is seeking to oust him—and he's betting his current seat on the council that he can do it.
"My style is collaboration, not confrontation," Briscoe said. "I believe I will bring proper decorum to the city of Sun Valley."
Briscoe said he has worked to unify a divided council and would use the same method to foster better relationships with other local governments, which he has repeatedly said have been damaged by Willich's style and comments.
Willich said his experience in corporate management has served him, and the city, well. Being a leader is a necessary skill in a mayor, he said, and he doesn't shy away from the task.
"That's what leadership means," he said. "You stand up and make your position known."
Briscoe cited strained relations with the county over dispatch-service funding as well as the many versions of the city budget this year as evidence of Willich's lack of leadership.
In his initial budget, Willich proposed taking the 3 percent property tax increase allowed by state law. He did not press the issue when some council members objected in light of the county's tax increase. Briscoe favored not increasing taxes but balancing the budget by making cuts.
Willich and Briscoe eventually came to agreement on a final version.
Willich defended his words and actions in dealing with external entities.
"In each of those cases, I've represented the best interests of the people of Sun Valley," he said.
He said he still has much he hopes to accomplish for the city's future.
"I would like to lead you there," he said.
The Sun Valley mayor's term is four years.
Two seats on the Sun Valley City Council are open—one being vacated by Briscoe and one held by incumbent Joan Lamb.
Lamb is running as a write-in candidate following a glitch in her petition of candidacy paperwork.
She said she's running again "to finish the important work we have before us." She cited her experience with budgets, saying reviewing and approving budgets is council members' primary job, with other important issues in her judgment being land use, repairing streets, protecting open space and hillsides, and working in a collaborative manner with all parties.
Suhadolnik said he is running because Sun Valley is special and should stay that way.
"I will work hard to keep Sun Valley the way it is," he said.
He said he represents no special interest group.
"If elected, my special interest group would be you," he told the crowd.
Suhadolnik said his time on the school board gave him experience he could use as a council member. He contended that being on a school board is even more demanding than serving on a City Council.
Griffith, executive director of ARCH Community Housing Trust, said she was inspired to run because of land-use issues. Development should be closely aligned with the city's comprehensive plan, she said.
She said her experience working with a broad range of stakeholders to find solutions would be an asset.
The council would benefit from new people, said Poindexter, who is making his second attempt at a council seat.
Poindexter, a night desk clerk at Sun Valley Resort, has stated his support for more late-night options for visitors and residents, and said he'd like set up a 24-hour hotline for any city-related question.
He wants the city to contribute more money to Mountain Rides, funded through a 1 percent tax increase tacked on to hotel rooms only.
Asked about the city's biggest vulnerability, Lamb cited the valley's sole power line, as evidenced by the widespread power outage in December 2009.
"One single source of power is our greatest risk," she said.
Griffith said the airport issue is the city's greatest vulnerability. The valley is debating how and where to maintain commercial air service at Friedman Memorial Airport.
"It's critical we maintain air service," she said.
Suhadolnik cited the changing of the guard at Sun Valley Co. as a potential vulnerability.
"The younger generation is coming on," he said.
He expressed concern that new decision-makers may not value Sun Valley the same way Earl Holding has, and said the city should "nurture" the relationship with the company.
Poindexter listed the airport, declining financial support for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance and reliance on outside emergency services as vulnerabilities.
On the topic of affordable housing, Lamb said a lack of those options affects emergency services because the city has a difficult time recruiting professionals such as firefighters because they can't afford a place to live.
"That's an area we continually need to evaluate," she said. "It's an ongoing challenge we will face."
Griffith said she would recuse herself from voting on that topic if elected due to her position with ARCH.
Poindexter said he supports affordable housing but not at taxpayer expense. Private companies should provide it, he said.
Most candidates said they support the bond issue that comes before voters next week.
"It's a question of paying less now or paying more later," Lamb said.
Suhadolnik was more circumspect.
"The message I get (from people) is the timing is bad," he said.
Poindexter said the time was as good as any.
"Any time you raise taxes ... it's never a good time," he said. "But this is something that will benefit the whole city."
Sun Valley has open-seat elections, meaning candidates do not run for particular seats. The candidates with the most votes fill the vacant positions.
Council terms are four years.
Rebecca Meany: firstname.lastname@example.org