POCATELLO – The current president of the Pocatello city council, Heidi Adamson, has not sought re-election for the number four seat on the council.
Among the four candidates vying to replace Adamson, who has held the seat since 2006, are Kathleen Lewis, John Mansfield, John C. Ruth and Taylor Wood.
While EastIdahoNews.com sent all four candidates the same set of eight questions, Lewis was the only candidate to answer. For more on Lewis, read his unedited answers below. Applicants were asked to limit their responses to 250 words or less for each question.
Tell us about yourself – include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work, and any previous public service experience.
LEWIS: I have lived in Pocatello for over 50 years. My husband and I raised our family here and two of our children graduated from ISU. I worked on the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments (SICOG) for over thirty years. I started my career there as a contract manager for the Area V agency on aging, then was appointed director of the economic development division, becoming the organization’s executive director in 1998. J I served on the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees for ten years. , including two as chairman. I served on the Pocatello Planning and Zoning Commission for eight years, three of which were as chairman. I currently represent District V on the Idaho Public Transportation Advisory Board, as chair.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your personal or professional life?
LEWIS: One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of during my career has been to instill a culture of collaboration and trust among the staff of SICOG. Our organization had fired the former executive director and there was a lack of confidence and uncertainty among the staff. I became an Executive Director at that time and worked to reestablish a strong working relationship among the staff and a sense of unity and purpose. I also worked to balance and increase the organization’s budget which was not healthy. Personally, although these are not achievements, my children and grandchildren. I am proud of everything they have accomplished.
What are the biggest challenges your community faces?
LEWIS: Lack of economic growth and development, affordable housing and an unsustainable city budget. Pocatello has only grown by 4.4% in ten years, while other municipalities have experienced one% growth. The lack of economic development planning has hampered the growth of our community. We need to invest in the businesses that we have, they are the foundation of our economy. The city’s budget for this coming year is balanced by drawing on reserves. We cannot continue to draw on reserves to meet our tax obligations.
How is your experience better suited than that of your competitor to deal with these unique challenges?
LEWIS: I have provided economic development in the seven counties and cities of Southeast Idaho. I understand the dynamics and have the tools to work with various groups towards consensus. I am very familiar with the municipal administration, its functioning and the creation of budgets. I am familiar with the budgeting process and understand both different fund accounts, dedicated funds, long term budget planning, and spending regulations. I managed a non-profit organization and its annual budget making sure we were structurally sound and complied with all state, federal and local regulations. I listen and work towards collaborative solutions. I have not received campaign funds from any group and am not linked to any city employee. It allows me the freedom to make decisions based on the good of the whole community.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents, even those with divergent political views?
LEWIS: I have always worked in an arena with different points of view and approaches to decisions and problems. I have found that listening without assuming is the best way to take it. Differences enrich rather than harm. I don’t have all the knowledge and the answers and I always seek the opinions of others, especially different points of view. I would like to organize neighborhood meetings to hear from individuals about their concerns and share with them what the city is doing and planning. I met with local businesses to listen to their ideas and needs.
What do you think of the role of the media in covering your city? How can you best work with local journalists to provide coverage of the issues?
LEWIS: Establishing a positive working relationship with the media is valuable. Ensuring the media are aware of decisions, meetings and upcoming agenda items will help the media to cover the city and ensure our residents stay informed on issues. Honesty and openness are essential for working with the media and all citizens of the community.
What measures, if any, do you think your city should implement amid lingering concerns over COVID-19?
LEWIS: The city must remain actively informed about COVID-19. It is important to participate in weekly updates with Public Health and to receive feedback from our health care providers to have the most recent and correct data. I think the city should encourage our citizens to get vaccinated and be aware of the health risks.
If you were given a multi-million dollar grant to use for the city however you want, what would you do and why?
LEWIS: First, I would review and assess the projected needs of our community. This could include infrastructure improvements or expansion, as well as other needs already identified. I would seek the advice of our residents to determine what they see as priorities. It is essential that residents be involved in this discussion, especially if this amount of funding was available.