After serving two four-year terms as Ketchum mayor, and more than 18 years in the public sector, Randy Hall has no regrets about moving on.
“After all the time I have spent in public service, I’m older, I’m grayer and I think I have matured a lot more,” Hall said this week. “Looking back at it, when I first started I wasn’t qualified to be a leader on any level. Through the grace of this community, through five elections, this community stood by me and helped me recover parts of my life that I had lost in the past.”
Hall’s eight-year tenure as mayor will come to an end in January, when Mayor-elect Nina Jonas is sworn in to replace him. Jonas beat Hall by a wide margin in the November city elections.
Hall’s path to becoming the city’s mayor was a highly unconventional one, set in motion after he decided to quit drinking and wanted to volunteer to help the city in any way he could.
“I wanted to contribute to my community in a meaningful way,” Hall said. “Eighteen and a half years ago, I had no idea what that was going to look like. I went to Mayor Guy Coles and said I had a life epiphany. I wanted to quit drinking and wanted to metaphorically live my life during the day instead of at night.”
Hall said he thought Coles would have him pick up trash at the bike path or volunteer at a park, but Coles told him he wanted him to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission because of his experience working in construction.
On the Planning and Zoning Commission, Hall became a co-chair of the panel, and then got elected to the Ketchum City Council. While on the council, he endured a legal battle with the city brought by the administration of former Mayor Ed Simon. Then, eight years ago, he was elected mayor.
Hall said that when he first began his career in public service, he came into it with an altruistic heart and open mind so he wouldn’t have any preconceived expectations. Now, as he prepares to leave office, he said he is proud of what the city government was able to accomplish while he serving.
“I feel great about the financial position the city is in,” Hall said. “We restructured government, streamlined services and cut the budget by millions of dollars. It was not easy to do at a time when our community was bleeding. We cut the budget while increasing the level of service at the same time. We put the city in the financial position that it’s in, and that’s a very good thing.”
Hall said he is proud that he helped bring the YMCA to Ketchum, and said the fact that there were people against it was “insanity at its craziest.” He said that not every issue was as clear-cut as approving the YMCA, and he still thinks about the issues that were considered the most controversial during his tenure in office.
“This community helped me through grace and compassion to be a leader.”
“Everything I struggled with was a learning experience,” Hall said. “The toughest decisions were the Starbucks issue, and changing the zoning on the Anderson Lumber site. Both were incredibly controversial. Forget about growing your job base—I was just trying to keep the jobs we have.”
The two issues he mentioned were controversial, indeed. In one case, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency decided to lease part of a downtown building to local owners of a Starbucks coffee franchise. Some residents thought it was a slap in the face of local businesses. In the second case, the city opted against changing the zoning of a light-industrial site north of downtown to allow for construction of a large-scale grocery store.
Hall said he is disappointed that a new hotel was not built during his tenure in office, but he is proud of the five parks that were built along with the construction of the Northwood Place affordable-housing project.
While discussing Ketchum’s future, he said he is very optimistic of the direction the city is headed in.
“I think Ketchum will grow thoughtfully and will continue to be a dynamic community that will be on the cutting edge of social issues, land-use issues and planning as a destination resort,” he said. “When I think of the future 50-100 years from now, I believe Ketchum and Sun Valley will be the most desirable resort community in the country, if not the world. People who live here understand the importance of no hillside development. We honor our waterways and hillsides.”
He said that when he visits other resort communities and sees hillside development, he feels man’s relationship with the mountains and nature as a whole is tarnished, in contrast to the beautiful views one can see from the top of Bald Mountain.
From Hall’s point of view, it is also the extent to which the community cares about each other and co-exists well that sets Ketchum apart from other resort communities.
Some of the toughest challenges Hall faced were dealing with the Castle Rock and Beaver Creek wildfires, which he said were incredibly stressful situations.
“I’m used to dealing with emergencies, but our wildfires were scary,” Hall said. “Our community got together, and made a lot of good decisions that protected our way of life.”
As Hall prepares for the next chapter in his life, he said he will be focused on making sure Jonas gets any help she needs.
“I’m not going anywhere. My No. 1 job is to make sure Nina (Jonas) can be the best mayor she can be,” Hall said. “I’m looking forward to her taking this community to the next level. I 100 percent believe she’s the right person for this job. I can see why the community wanted change. Losing by a 2-1 margin tells me the community is ready to move on and I get it. I’ve been around for a long time.”
Hall said he is relieved to move on to the next phase of his life, as he did not realize how stressed he was as mayor until after the election was over.
“With each sign I picked up after the election, I felt better and better,” Hall said. “I was so relieved when the election ended. I was happy for Nina because I know she will do a great job of leading this community into the future.”
He said he plans to become a full-time paramedic at St. Luke’s hospital in January. He also plans on spending much more time with his 5-year-old daughter and will take classes at the College of Southern Idaho in the emergency services field.
Hall said that although his life in public office is likely over, he will always be grateful for the people he met while in office.
“I will definitely remember the people I met the most,” Hall said. “I quit drinking 16 years ago, and this community helped me through grace and compassion to be a leader. I have a life beyond my wildest dreams as a result of living in this community. Without the compassion of this community, I would have kept drinking and I’m sure I would have been dead.”
Eric Avissar: firstname.lastname@example.org