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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003


Thorson vows to cooperate with council

Sun Valley mayor-elect
says win was anticipated

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley mayor-elect Jon Thorson this week vowed to cooperate with the Sun Valley City Council, despite the fact that all of the panel’s members had endorsed his Election Day competitor Latham Williams.

"I want to make it clear that I’m only interested in the issues and the participation of the council," Thorson said. "We all need to work for the well-being of the citizens." In the Sun Valley mayoral election Nov. 4, Thorson took advantage of a notably large voter turnout to defeat Williams by a 380-vote to 213-vote margin. Nearly 75 percent of the city’s approximately 810 registered voters participated in the election, a percentage that has not been equaled in any city election since the late 1970s.

Thorson, a 72-year-old retired physician, is a political newcomer, with no formal experience in city government. Williams, a 42-year-old real estate investor and entrepreneur, is the current president of the City Council and the vice chairman of the Idaho Republican Party.

Although the election results surprised some insiders, Thorson said he would not characterize his victory as an upset. He said a thorough survey of voters before Election Day indicated that he could win by 60 to 100 votes.

"I think the people have not been pleased with the process," he said. "I think the voters were looking for a change."

Although Williams was not running as an incumbent mayor, he was widely perceived as a close ally of Mayor David Wilson. Wilson endorsed Williams after deciding in September not to run for a second four-year term.

Williams, whose term on the City Council is set to expire in January, declined to comment directly on the election results or whether he will seek another political office.

In a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express editor this week, Williams congratulated Thorson. "Jon cares deeply about the future of Sun Valley, he has a strong vision for protecting and improving our city, and he will be a great leader," Williams wrote.

Thorson attributed the victory—and the large voter turnout—in part to his tireless campaign. He said he or his campaign associates contacted every Sun Valley voter at least once and contacted every one of his supporters or potential supporters at least twice.

"I worked hard," he said. "I went door to door. I talked to as many people as I could."

He added: "I spent 45 minutes in some houses. People were very interested in talking and were very interested in community issues."

Thorson noted that because he started his campaign in August—one month ahead of Williams—he "got the message out early."

Thorson’s message was keenly focused on his desire to run a "transparent" administration that seeks to involve the citizenry and balance public interests against special interests.

During his campaign, Thorson was critical of the Wilson administration and some decisions made by the City Council under Wilson’s watch. In particular, he objected to the city’s use of public funds to research development of an arts center on the city-owned "Five-Acre Parcel" on Sun Valley Road, as well as the handling of two large development projects in Elkhorn.

Thorson repeatedly told voters his work as mayor would not be based on an agenda that could promote a future career in politics. Some Sun Valley citizens had theorized that Williams might use the mayor’s seat as a stepping stone to a higher office, perhaps in the state Capitol.

Claude Demont, a Sun Valley resident and voter, said he supported Thorson because of his avowed commitment to encouraging public participation in the legislative process. "In my judgment, this signifies a new era in municipal government," he said, noting that he believes the high voter turnout was a "very positive expression" of democracy.

Glenn Janss, an approximately 30-year Sun Valley resident who recently moved to Ketchum, said she believes Thorson ran an effective campaign that resonated with many full-time and part-time residents. "The citizens of Sun Valley need a mayor who is going to represent them," she said. "I think Jon brings a breath of fresh air, and you need that in politics."

The entire City Council and some members of the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission had endorsed Williams.

Blair Boand, a P&Z member who on Nov. 4 was elected to fill Williams’ Seat 1 on the council, said he does not anticipate problems between the council and Thorson. "We’re all grown men and women," he said. "We’re all prepared to work together as a team."

Thorson said he plans to meet individually with every member of the council to discuss city issues prior to taking over the office in mid-January. "I think it will be fine," he said.



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