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For the week of Apr. 5 through Apr. 11, 2000

Race for county office

Eclectic candidates promise a hot contest


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

With a slew of eclectic candidates registered at Friday’s election filing deadline, this year’s campaigns for county office should prove to be loaded with meaningful debate, perhaps creating some difficult choices for voters during November’s general election.

At stake are the north county commissioner’s seat, being vacated by Len Harlig, and the south county seat, for which incumbent Democrat Dennis Wright plans to run again.

Altogether, seven people have designs on the commission seats; two candidates will compete for sheriff, including the incumbent; and one person is running for a county prosecutor open seat.

The filing deadline for candidates was March 31.

Democrat Sarah Michaels, Democrat Sally Donart, Republican Ivan Swaner and independent Sue Noel vie for north county commissioner. In the South county, independent James Super and Democrat Robb Peck challenge incumbent Wright.

For prosecuting attorney, Bellevue Democrat Jim Thomas plans to run unchallenged to fill the vacating Doug Werth’s position.

For sheriff, Democrat Dan Tiller challenges incumbent Republican Walt Femling.

Party primaries are scheduled for May 23.

Commissioner candidates say they are deeply concerned about growth, transportation and housing issues in the county.

Sarah Michaels, 53, has a long history of working on transportation issues, mostly in California. Before moving to Blaine County in 1992, she worked as a consultant for the California Assembly Transportation Committee and for the California Energy Commission, she said during a telephone conversation on Monday.

For those organizations, she said, she analyzed legislation dealing with transportation and planned alternative transportation in the 1970s.

"From my experience, there’s not one single solution to our transportation policy," Michaels said. "The options that are on the table (in Blaine County) have to be pursued.

"There’s talk of a regional transit authority. I think we need to develop that. I think the highway needs to be expanded. I think we need to work with employers to develop ride-share programs. If we’re going to expand the highway, we need high-occupancy vehicle lanes. You need to have incentives for people to ride-share."

Michaels, a former manager of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce, said she is running for office because she feels now is a very critical time for the county.

"I think we need to stay the course in preserving our scenic corridor, protecting our rivers and continuing to concentrate our services and high-density development in our cities," she said. "That’s kind of the overarching issue. I think it’s been the policy of the county to concentrate development and support open space. I think in doing that, we need to work with landowners in activating programs such as transfer of development rights and land trust acquisition."

One of Michael’s challengers, Republican Ivan Swaner, 66, said during an interview Monday, "I haven’t been keeping up on too many of the issues, right now."

Nevertheless, Swaner said he is seeking office because he doesn’t like the way things are currently being run.

Having lived all his life in Blaine County, where he has worked as a ranch hand and a snow cat driver on Bald Mountain, Ivan peered over his two-inch-high handlebar mustache and said, "It seems to me, the property owner should have the right to do whatever he wants with his own property."

As for Highway 75, Swaner said the Idaho Transportation Authority should make improvement decisions on its own because state roads are paid for by state taxes, not just taxes from Blaine County.

"The ITD shouldn’t pay too much attention to individuals up here," he said.

In the south county, independent James Super, 46, brings to his campaign 6 1/2 years experience on the Emmett, Idaho, city council and time on the Ketchum/Sun Valley chamber of commerce board of directors.

For Super, who owns Ketchum-based Super Outfitter Adventures of Sun Valley, providing affordable housing so employees can afford to live in the area is a top priority.

During a telephone conversation Monday, Super estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the valley’s unskilled labor commutes from south of Highway 20, which he calls "the equator."

Only high wages will continue to motivate those employees to commute, Super suggested, adding that, eventually, increasing wages closer to home might persuade those employees to stop working in Blaine County altogether.

Without affordable housing in the county, Super predicted, wages could skyrocket.

"I think affordable housing is important for the entire community," he said, "not just Ketchum. Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue have a responsibility to help."

As an outfitter, Super also is deeply concerned about preserving open space, which he said "wildlife depends on as much as hunters, photographers and everyone else."

Two other Blaine County politicians registered by the Friday deadline to run for state office. Democrat Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum, the House of Representatives minority leader, plans to run again. And Democrat Clint Stennett, the Senate’s minority leader, also said he would run again.

 

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