BLACKFOOT — Four candidates are running for the office of mayor of Blackfoot, including the incumbent, Marc Carroll, and challengers Ron Ramirez, Craig Stuart, and Jim Thomas.
Early voting starts Monday and ends Oct. 29.
The candidates were asked to address six items: 1) tell people about yourself, including information about family, career, education, volunteer work and any experience in public office; 2) what are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career; 3) what are the greatest challenges facing the community; 4) how is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor(s); 5) how will you best represent the views of your constituents; 6) if you received a multi-million dollar grant to use for the city in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Their responses are included here, in alphabetical order.
1) My wife Marilynn and I moved to Blackfoot 45 years ago. We have been happily married for 53 years and have three daughters who also live in Blackfoot — Tiffany (Kevin) Leavitt, Tawni (Jeff) Lewis, and Tara (Derek) Cottrell. We have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I retired from the INL in 2011 during my 35th year, with a management background. My volunteer “career” includes three years as PTA president at Stoddard Elementary; several ad hoc committees for District 55 school board; six years United Way of SE Idaho Executive Board; 39 years with American Youth Soccer Organization as a regional commissioner, coach, referee and section coach trainer; eight years coaching varsity soccer for Blackfoot High School; 12 years on Blackfoot’s transportation commission, seven years as chairman. The last four years I have had the privilege to serve as mayor for the City of Blackfoot.
2) By far, my proudest accomplishments are wrapped around the pride I have in my wife Marilynn, our three daughters and their husbands, and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their combined successes, but more importantly their reputations as good and kind people, are significant satisfactions in my life. There are many accomplishments that I could talk to in my career, but few of them would have happened without the relationships of mutual trust and commitment that I established with co-workers. Something that I think about a lot, especially as I get older, is that one’s headstone almost always reflects references to family or friends and almost never to work/career titles or accomplishments. It is the familial and friend relationships that are a person’s real and longest lived accomplishments.
3) The City of Blackfoot is currently working many different projects, mostly to update and modernize infrastructure. Projects such as replacing old sewer pipe, updating water meters to radio transmitted data units, rehabilitating streets, modernizing police and fire department, implementing more cost-efficient practices in parks and recreation, and doing these things with an eye toward keeping the budget flat as possible. But I think a bigger challenge to any municipality is finding ways to combat apathy in the community. Many people talk about the need for transparency but few people come to city council meetings, Planning and Zoning meetings, Blackfoot Urban Renewal meetings, Library Board, Transportation Commission meetings, etc., unless they have an interest in a specific topic. The city went to some expense 18 months ago to install state-of-art equipment to provide virtual meeting capability for those who could not attend city meetings in person. I think we average 3-5 non-city personnel attending city council meetings and 2-3 people who attend virtually. There are right at 5,000 people registered to vote in the city limits of Blackfoot. Local elections (city council, school board, mayor) will see a turnout of 20-25%, or 1,000-1,200 voters. I don’t understand this.
4) I have served as mayor for almost four years. The position of mayor has a minor component of ceremonial duties such as ribbon cutting and reading of proclamations, but 95% of the time is spent managing and handling of the administration functions of the city. According to Code, the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city and is in charge of day-to-day operations. This includes the overall planning and preparation of formal plans for future operation of the city. These plans are formal documents and include water, wastewater (sewage), storm water, transportation, sanitation, and wastewater capacity. These areas are all part of the infrastructure of the city. My experience of nearly 40 years as a professional manager has prepared me for being able to instigate this level of planning, and provide supervisory oversight to execute the plans in a cost-effective manner.
5) Referring back to my response to the third question, apathy can make (representing the views of constituents) difficult. Citizens do not show up very often at meetings of elected officials, and I receive few phone or email complaints on any major topic. I average 2-3 complaints a month regarding a pothole, missed garbage can pick-up, greenbelt dog poo, and things of this nature. I have experimented with open microphone sessions in council chambers, man/woman on the street discussions, city website opportunity for citizen input, and limited Facebook interaction. I watch for letters to the editor in the local newspaper hoping to see expressions of opinion that would lead to interactions but there is not much there either. For whatever reason, folks are either reticent to express their thoughts about problem areas or they are completely satisfied with the outcomes of city actions. I sincerely doubt that is the case, but we remain open to any feedback on any topic.
There are a number of people who do make contact to express congratulations on various projects. Since we get very few expressions of concern on city activities, do we infer we are doing everything to everybody’s satisfaction? No, I am sure that is not the case either. Bottom line, I encourage all citizens to choose the method with which they are most comfortable and provide input to the city by email, phone, or in person. The city’s phone number is (208) 785-8600, my office line is (208) 785-2756, the city website is cityofblackfoot.org, the City Hall address is 157 N. Broadway, upstairs of the City Library.
6) Almost all grants have a match requirement for the grantee. These match amounts can range from 7.5% to 50% (of the total grant amount) for the grantee, and can result in a significant cost item to the grantee. We would therefore need to be sure we could cover the match. With that said, I would meet with the Public Works Department heads and reach consensus on priority needs of the city. At this point, with other plans currently in effect for water and sewer infrastructure, most likely the money would be spent on street rehabilitation, which is a complete removal of asphalt and road base and completely re-building that street. For information, we are currently working on a project to rebuild Fisher Street from Walker Street to Alice Street. Right now, we have set priorities on Pendlebury, Riverton, and Shilling as being main thoroughfares needing significant rehabilitation work. For reference, rehabbing Pendlebury from Christensen to Alice Street is an approximate $2 million project. Pendlebury Lane and Riverton Road are in dire need of this work because of their current conditions, but also due to the development growth going on in those areas of the city. Shilling Street needs the work due to the amount of traffic and the fact that we cannot do another asphalt overlay on that street. There are individuals who would argue that there are other more deserving projects for the city, but I think it is time to focus on our streets.
I think that I can be considered as a local boy. I was born in the Aberdeen, where I lived until I was in the 6th grade. My family them moved to the “big city” ... American Falls ... where I graduated from high school. I have since been blessed with wonderful opportunities to see the world, receive a good education, and gain wonderful experience on how to serve my community.
I have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, with emphasis on state and local government. I have taught government and politics at a community college. I have served 10 years as an elected public official, six years as a city councilman, and four years as a county commissioner. I have also served on the national Finance, Administration, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the National League of Cities. I know who to go to and how to get the job done in solving city problems. I have been serving for six years on the Blackfoot Planning and Zoning Commission and have rewritten over 120 pages of Blackfoot City Code to bring them up-to-date to handle modern challenges and I am not done yet. I also have a background in economic development, having served for four years as a member of the East Central Idaho Planning and Development Board. I have both the knowledge and experience to get the job done.
I love the City of Blackfoot. In my opinion, it is the finest place I have ever lived. The people are warm and friendly, and they look out for one another. The world is changing in many negative ways, but I see the people of Blackfoot as trying to maintain the traditional values of honesty, integrity, kindness, and love of their fellowman. This is what has caused me to want to live here the rest of my life and motivates me to try to help the citizens of Blackfoot in any way that I can.
But the world is pushing in on Blackfoot. People who have been living in other states, and even other nations, where the living conditions and people are not as favorable as they are here, are flocking to southeastern Idaho, looking to live the “good life.” Unfortunately, many are bringing with them the problems and practices which caused them to want to leave their former societies. Municipalities and governments need to be proactive in setting rules and codes to prevent these problems from ruining our way of life. I have had the wonderful opportunity to serve for many years in government.
However, the problems are coming at a faster and faster rate and not enough is being done to stay ahead of them. It is not that the current administration does not have the desire fix the problems; they do, and they are trying. It’s just that they do not have the background and experience to be able to complete the job. So, the tax rate the citizens of Blackfoot are paying is the highest in the state, our city streets are on terrible condition, our sewer and water services are reaching the limits of their capability, and we don’t have anyone who is enforcing code requirements, so many people are not keeping up their properties or are doing things on their property which is to the detriment of their neighbors.
I can help fix this. I have the education, experience, and ability to recognize current problems and solve them and to foresee future problems and forestall them.
You ask how I will represent the views of my constituents. Well first, you have to know the views of your constituents, the majority of them and not just the view who come asking for special favors. I invited a computer expert to come and brief the P&Z on how to set up an online questionnaire where the city can learn the citizens’ views on issues facing the city. This program has built-in restrictions which would keep any group from stuffing the ballot box. As a result of my efforts, the city has signed a contract with this computer company and will soon have the questionnaire online. I will then try to meet the expectations and needs of the majority Blackfoot citizens.
If I was to receive a multi-million dollar grant, which I will actively be seeking, I would first seek to increase the capacity of the water and sewer departments. A recent study indicated that the city is near reaching capacity with our current facilities and without greater capacity, Blackfoot’s future would be severely limited. Bringing Blackfoot’s city streets up to standard will also require a multi-million dollar investment. I would also like to see if we couldn’t find a recreational grant to have city parks in other locations other than the Jensen Grove area.
I still feel that constituents will get a bigger and better view of who I am and what I stand for by going to my website, Electronramirez.com.
1) I was born in Blackfoot, and it has been the center of my life. Though I have lived other places, it always draws me back! My wife Rae Jean and I love it here!
We have 10 children, seven who are living, and 17 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren in Idaho and Utah. We enjoy the outdoors and love camping, biking, boating, and staying healthy through exercise and diet. We like to be active!
My first five years of employment I worked in the farming and trucking industry in the area. From there I went to the INL and worked in bus operations for 15 years. I had a business I created in Utah as a wholesaler to the Home Depots in that state. I have also managed petroleum distribution in Idaho and Utah for Moyle Petroleum/Exxon Mobil for 15 years.
I volunteer at church and have held positions in our congregation through many years and enjoy the associations and leadership that I have developed. While I lived in Utah, my wife worked in events for our church in downtown Salt Lake City, and I volunteered there. I signed up to serve weekly for two years at large events. I learned to love the patrons and the work that we were doing. Giving service is the best feeling.
We moved to Idaho thinking I might retire. However, I like staying busy, so retirement was not for me. I started up an excavation business for me and my son. He passed in 2017, so I sold it as the joy was gone without him.
I have a commitment for action in my life which is: “Do the Right Thing for the Right Reason.” For this reason, I am running for mayor of Blackfoot.
2) I am most proud of my children and family and their accomplishments.
Started a 15-acre subdivision in Blackfoot in 1993-94.
Starting a business and selling products in the Home Depots in Utah was a huge accomplishment. (Getting my foot in the door and wholesaling products there.) I learned how to operate my business in a big box store. Not an easy task to be sure.
Providing excellence in all I do.
I also started another construction business.
3) What are the greatest challenges facing the community?
Here are seven items I believe are some of the challenges facing our community:
A. Our relationship with the county. We live in Bingham County. Why would we not work with the county? The city and the county need to work together. That’s a big challenge right now. The transparency is not at best between the planning and zoning, city, and county residents. Why not? Let’s help those relations to happen.
B. Why is the city not making money? I believe it should be. The city is a business and should be able to sustain itself and its residents. It is broke.
C. A huge challenge would be to get our tax base down, so that we are not the third highest in the state.
D. Downtown parking is a problem and challenge.
E. Our Water and Sewer Treatment plant needs updating to support the growth in the community.
F. There’s been talk about the blocking of railroad tracks for emergency vehicle access for decades. Evaluating a study for the crossings is welcome by me.
G. Another challenge is education and recreation for us. We should start thinking about this for the community. Many residents go to Pocatello and Idaho Falls for education and recreation activities. Our goal should be keep money in our own community. What can we do to create and make our community pro-recreation?
4) I have the personality to work with people because I talk with everyone and ask a lot of questions. My honesty, good character, and integrity are at the forefront. These are the most important skills that a mayor can have — to bring people together. I believe this city needs someone that can relate with everyone, and I know that I’m that person. I have an entrepreneurial drive about myself and always have. Meetings are necessary, but I like action and not just talking about things. Also, surrounding yourself with educated people is key to making wise decisions. I was in business for a number of years involved in sewer and water line construction, reading engineering plans, and understand the complexities of this. Through my many diverse life experiences, I have hands-on knowledge that would serve this community as mayor.
5) Being a Mayor is not a political office; however, I know that politics are involved in everything. I believe that we all bring good to the table, no matter our views, and feel that I can marry or join those views, to find solutions. Regardless of your political stand, I will represent you in a professional and courteous way. I view you — as who you are, and not what party you belong to. Together, we make up the wonderful culture of Blackfoot.
1) I’ve lived in Blackfoot since 1969. I went to and graduated from Blackfoot High School. I also am a graduate of Snow College, in 1973. I have lived in Blackfoot for approximately 49 years. I have a wife, three children, and four grandchildren. I have been in the drywall business for 47 years, as the owner of Jim Thomas Drywall. I have also owned and managed rental properties for 38 years, and have also owned and operated a couple of farms for the last 27 years. This is my second time running for mayor of Blackfoot.
2) No question, my proudest accomplishment is my family. My son and two daughters and my four grandchildren make me so proud!
I am also a proud business owner. I am proud to have worked on thousands of homes, businesses, churches, schools and hospitals up and down the Snake River Valley. I get a feeling of pride when I drive past projects I’ve worked on and completed.
3) I believe that high property taxes are a major issue facing our community. The property taxes for a city of our size are too high. We rank 19th in population at 11,899, but in Blackfoot, we are taxed at a rate of 2.238%. That is 4 times the rate of the rest of Bingham County, which is a rate of 0.69%. It is even higher than the City of Boise, which is taxed at a rate of 1.327%. We are near the top of the highest property taxed in the state. So my question is, are we spending tax dollars wisely in Blackfoot?
4) I am a business owner. I believe that a city is a business, and should be run as a business. You can’t keep going to the taxpayers and asking for more money. Our current city officials spend like the largest cities in Idaho, but we have nothing to show for it except for poor streets, poor infrastructure, and water and sewer lines in poor conditions. High property taxes chase business owners and home builders away from our area.
City leaders are also showing no transparency. They don’t like to tell us what they are spending our tax dollars on. One example of this is them trying to buy an office building in the county that most of the taxpayers don’t believe there is a need for. I don’t believe they are lacking in space where they are right now. They haven’t shown taxpayers they know how to run a business, yet they run a city. They believe there is no limit to what taxpayers can and will pay for. I don’t agree.
5) Communication is the most important. I believe that you have to talk to all the constituents, and get their views on what is best for the city. How do they want their tax dollars spent. I feel that the current mayor seems to be out of touch with the tax payer in Blackfoot. It is nice to have nice things, like the golf course, Jensen’s Grove Greenbelt, and other parks, but you have to take care of the things we have, and be efficient in doing so.
6) I would get an underpass built. The loss of business to the city is unmeasurable because of waiting for trains. Not to mention it is a safety factor. There are two high schools, a junior high, a sixth grade center, and an elementary school, plus a soon to be built elementary school and new technical school. Many of the students in the Blackfoot School District and their families have to cross the tracks twice a day.
I would also do something for the youth? Maybe a new or updated swimming pool?