Friday, November 11, 2011

Close vote lands Briscoe in mayoral seat

2 political newcomers will join Sun Valley council

Express Staff Writer

Franz Suhadolnik Dewayne Briscoe Michelle Griffith

Sun Valley voters elected a new mayor Tuesday, opting to remove incumbent Wayne Willich in favor of City Council President Dewayne Briscoe.

Sun Valley had 945 registered voters, with 15 either registering or re-registering with a new address at the polls Tuesday, according to Blaine County Election Clerk Amy Rivkin. The county counted a total of 482 ballots from Sun Valley, about half of registered voters.

"I'm very pleased with the election," Briscoe said. "I'm pleased the voters of Sun Valley gave me confidence to run the city for the next four years. I won't let them down."

Briscoe said he's also happy about the makeup of the new council and is satisfied with, and will keep, all city staff.

"We'll have a seamless transition," he said.

Willich said he accepts the wishes of the people.

"We have an electorate that's very independent," Willich said. "They decide what they want to decide."

The vote, he noted, was "very, very close."

Twenty-two votes separated the candidates, with 244 people voting for Briscoe and 222 for Willich.

Willich said he offered his help to Briscoe during the transition.

"I called Dewayne last night and said congratulations," Willich said Wednesday. "There is zero animosity about the whole thing."

Willich said he was pleased to leave the city in good financial shape and with a high-performing staff.

"I'm feeling pretty good about that," he said, adding, "I've had a successful four years as mayor."

New faces on council

Political newcomer Michelle Griffith said she'll start working now to prepare herself for a seat on the City Council.

"I'm looking forward to my first foray into public service," Griffith said. "While I do not have official duties until January, I plan to familiarize myself with as much as possible in advance of taking office."

She said she'll attend a seminar on Idaho statutes for elected officials in Twin Falls next month.

"I also look forward to hearing from fellow residents," she said. "I thank them for their votes and will work diligently to represent them."

Franz Suhadolnik, who will take the other open seat, said he appreciated the support he received.

"I'm deeply grateful to the citizens who voted for me," he said.

Incumbent Joan Lamb, who ran as a write-in candidate due to an error in her candidacy paperwork, will not be returning to the council next year. Lamb said she appreciates everyone who supported her campaign.

"That was a rewarding experience in that so many people really extended themselves to me and expressed their appreciation and support," she said. "I have been privileged to serve the citizens of Sun Valley for eight years."

She said the large number of absentee voters further impacted her write-in campaign. She also attributed her loss in part to voter misunderstanding about her support for the property tax increase during budget discussions this summer.

"I think that voters did not understand that I had proposed ... that the 3 percent tax increase be set aside for roads and equipment and thereby save us about $1.25 million in borrowing costs over 15 years," she said.

She expressed concern that the new council majority will not support funding visitor information services and marketing with the local-option tax, a stance she said will result over time in the loss of jobs and a decline in property values.

Candidate Stephen Poindexter said he would have been an advocate for more transportation and marketing funding.

"Although I'm disappointed with the results, I congratulate the winners on their successful campaigns," he said in a written statement. "I will continue to push my five-point plan as a private concerned citizen."

Rebecca Meany:

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