Friday, September 19, 2014

Going for gold in the Legislature

Dick Fosbury makes a bid for District 26 House seat

Express Staff Writer

Dick Fosbury

Part of a series on District 26 candidates for the state Legislature.

    In the upcoming House of Representatives election, Republican incumbent Steve Miller will compete against a familiar face for Seat A in District 26, which encompasses Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Gooding counties.
    Richard Douglas “Dick” Fosbury, an Olympic high-jumper who revolutionized the “back-first” jumping technique in the 1960s, is running against Miller on the Democratic ticket come Nov. 4. Both Miller and Fosbury were unopposed in the primary election.
    The 67-year-old Fosbury said stimulating the economy is one of his top goals. As the corporate president of Galena Engineering and an almost 40-year resident of the Wood River Valley, he says his insider knowledge of the construction industry drives a desire for improved infrastructure and roads.
    “The governor and Legislature deferred any monies for maintenance this year because it’s not a highly visible political issue,” he said. “That’s a mistake.”
    While it’s the first time Fosbury is running for public office, he’s held multiple leadership positions both nationally and locally—he’s in his third term as vice president for the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association, worked as a Ketchum city engineer for 25 years and is a member of the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, among other positions.
    “I purposefully avoided politics because I felt that I had an outlet for public service with those appointed positions,” Fosbury said in an interview this week. “I enjoyed that for a long time.”
    Weathering the 2008 economy recession as a business owner, Fosbury said, gave him insight into the job crisis.
    “From 2008 on, [Galena Engineering] really struggled and lost so many good employees that it’ll take decades to build the company,” he said. “We went from 26 employees at peak summertime down to about six [later] in 2011.”
    Education is another central issue for Fosbury, and one that goes hand-in-hand with job creation. He advocates for raising state revenues for education to increase the number of students who graduate from high school. Education Week’s 2014 report card gave Idaho a D- grade in financing this year, based on total spending and equitable funding allotments across the board.
    “An educated workplace is really important for our communities and certainly for the standard of living in Idaho,” he said.  
    Fosbury also supports protection of federal lands, including the proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument, for both ecological and fiscal reasons.
    “Idaho can’t afford to administer and care for all of the federal lands that we have in Idaho,” he said.
    Land and wildlife issues are of central importance to Fosbury’s campaign. The $400,000 Gov. Butch Otter allocated toward managing the gray wolf population to control predation on livestock and ungulates in 2014 are “misdirected,” according to Fosbury. He said non-lethal method to control wolves have proven locally to work and that money could be put toward worthier purposes. Miller voted “yes” to establish the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board in February of this year, which created a five-member board and approved the nearly half-million-dollar sum toward reducing the state wolf population.
“It’s a message that’s well-received by the cattle industry but very poorly received by the tourist industry,” Fosbury said.
Within District 26, Fosbury wants to work toward bridging the gap between poorer citizens and wealthier citizens. Bringing more young people to the area, particularly Blaine County, will create a vital workforce, Fosbury said. Citing the low number of 25- through 35-year-olds in the Wood River Valley, Fosbury says the region is at a crossroads, demographically. Projects such as the Ketchum Community Development Corp.’s Ketchum Innovation Center, which offers incubation for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, are on the right track, he said.
Making education equitable across the four counties is another local priority, he said, citing the significant differences in property values between the northern and southern counties that are then funneled into respective school districts.
    “That’s really created some disparities with the school district and how they’ve tried to fund their operations,” he said.
    Fosbury says his common sense and background in public service would guide him through legislative decision-making.
    “I will try to use my name to open doors,” he said.

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