Minidoka County voters will have their pick between Commissioner Sheryl Koyle and political newcomer Richard Schafer. Koyle’s seat is up this year, but she is eager to retain it and continue working for the growing county. Schafer wants to serve the constituents in an area he says has been good to him.
Koyle, born and raised in Rupert, is a Minico graduate who went on to study at Rick’s College (now BYU-Idaho) before earning her real estate license in Boise in 1979. Since that year, she has been the owner and broker of Rocky Mountain Real Estate in Rupert while serving in local government.
She’s been a county commissioner for more than five years. She has also worked on the planning and zoning board for 11 years and the Fourth of July committee in Rupert.
With the board of commissioners, Koyle has worked with the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee, agencies that pool resources to plan for potential catastrophes. Those involved: Mini-Cassia police stations, fire departments, state police, schools, large companies like sugar factories and DOT foods, Homeland Security, South Central Public Health, hospitals and ambulance services.
She helped re-organize the Minidoka Emergency Preparedness Committee, which she admitted was not distributing Homeland Security grant funds to all of the MEPC entities. With Koyle on board, the MEPC hired a new director to make sure those funds were distributed evenly.
The biggest issue she sees is upgrading the county’s existing facilities. Saving money and looking for options on remodeling or simply replacing buildings can go a long way in providing the kind of infrastructure that attracts new business, she said.
“We need to be looking toward the next 50 years and not just five in the community,” she said. “Anything that we do now affects that far outlook.”
Koyle said the commissioner, as a public servant, has to be able to decide what’s best for the community. She is qualified to do that, she said, because of her political experience and because she regularly finds ways to benefit the county such as attending classes and conferences that reduce the county’s insurance costs by 5 percent.
If elected, Koyle said, residents can also expect the county to continue to step up efforts to crack down on the drug problem. The commissioners have to keep law enforcement as a big part of their budget for local agencies and the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force to keep making arrests and keep residents safe, she said.
“I actually love being a commissioner,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity to serve my community. It gives me the opportunity to share my insight from my experience that I’ve had already.”
Her opponent, Richard Schafer, enters the race as a political newcomer. He previously owned and operated three All State Insurance agencies, the largest one in Burley. His family has been involved in local politics. His father was on the Burley City Council and helped form the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce. His grandfather was the engineer in charge of the North Side Pumping Project of the mid-1950s, which opened up more than 76,000 acres in the county plus 70,000 opened by private individuals.
Schafer received a bachelors degree in English secondary education at Idaho State. He taught at Castleford High School and coached the school’s football, basketball and track teams. These years represented the only time the Rupert native lived away from Minidoka County.
Schafer, now retired, said he wants to be a commissioner to give back to a community that has been good to him.
Government, he said, needs to be run more like a business and be less political.
“First of all and foremost, I believe that we are representative of our constituents,” he said. “That’s by far the most important. They need to be heard. They need to know what they feel matters.”
Schafer may not have political experience, but he has kept a close eye on the county’s issues, saying there’s a Snake River-division mentality that needs to be broken down so the cities of Mini-Cassia can pool resources and grow.
One major issues for him and the rest of the area is having a new airport here.
“It’s commerce here,” Schafer said. “Just for an example, overnight delivery. If a farmer’s pivot goes down and he needs a computer panel and needs it overnight to keep his water going, how are we going to have that if we don’t have an airport that accommodates this kind of aircraft?”
His idea for pushing the airport forward is by encouraging the airport task force and by holding public hearings to get feedback from residents affected by airport location selections.
Schafer said his experience in the insurance business allows him to understand what growth is about. As with insurance companies, retaining customers is key, he said. The customers in this case are the businesses moving into Minidoka County now and in the future.
“I just want (voters) to know I would appreciate their support on May 17,” Schafer said. “I believe they would not be disappointed. I can do the job. I have the time to do the job. I have the heart to do the job.”