Hailey • Blaine County has three candidates running for one Blaine County Commissioners seat on the Democrat ticket alone. The winner will be unopposed in the general election in November.
Two Hailey residents are challenging Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg for his seat.
Kaz Thea has championed many programs in the Wood River Valley. She founded Idaho’s Bounty, an online food market connecting Idahoans with local producers. And she runs the Wood River Farmers Markets in Ketchum and Hailey every summer.
She started what is now the Wood River Freeride ski and snowboard program to provide affordable non-competitive ski and snowboard instruction for youngsters. And she has raised thousands of dollars in scholarships to enable children to participate in that program and summer fly-fishing, mountain climbing and other programs.
She also helped develop the area’s bike pedestrian master plan and a public bike rental program as bike pedestrian coordinator for Mountain Rides.
As a wildlife biologist who worked for U.S. Fish and Wildlife for 10 years, Thea says she can provide expert knowledge about wildlife and conservation issues when it comes to such questions as how to handle Idaho Fish and Game elk feeding sites where nearly two dozen elk died this past winter.
One of her priorities would be turning the vacant Blaine Manor into a fire station consolidating the Hailey Fire Department with Wood River Fire and Rescue. The city gave it to the county for a buck so it would be in keeping with legacy for the county to allow it to be used for that purpose, she says.
She would also like to find ways to make local foods more available and affordable to all. Blaine County, for instance, could follow the example of a new initiative in Los Angeles that stipulates grocery stores have to have a higher percentage of local foods.
Thea is married to Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson, but she says that should not preclude her from addressing such issues as whether to use funds from the Land Water and Wildlife Levy to relocate Deer Creek Road out of wetlands as the Forest Service restores an area heavily damaged by the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire.
The language of the levy does not preclude allotting some of the funds to state or federal projects, as some people contend, she says.
“And the merits of the project deserve it,” she added.
Gary Brower said he helped a lot of people while working in banking in Ketchum and Hailey and thought serving as commissioner would be a way to help his neighbors, as well.
“Plus my father was a director of special education, my mother a teacher and my brothers and sisters have all done public service,” added Brower, who now works as a court reporter and payroll specialist for the county.
Brower says his work as an online retailer has given him the ability to analyze issues: “I’m a collaborator. I want to find a decision that works for the community.”
Brower says the commissioners erred when it gave themselves a $20,000 pay raise a couple of years ago: “I think they’re overpaid. What they do is a public service — it shouldn’t be about the money.”
Any raise should be put to the voters or tied to the inflationary index, he added.
Brower thinks whether levy funds should be used for Deer Creek restoration project should be put to voters on the November ballot, although personally he thinks it’s a good project.
“My philosophy: Don’t spend what you don’t have. Don’t spend money to make money. Collect it and use it responsibly,” he said.
Jacob Greenberg, who owns Shorty’s diner in Hailey, was appointed to the commissioner’s seat by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter after Sarah Michael vacated it partway through her tenure. He was unopposed during the last election.
Greenberg said commissioners have streamlined the permit process for solar projects during his tenure, and they’re forming a groundwater district. They plan to work on a water conservation program. And they’re working on grants to make Blaine County more firewise.
He is in favor of using the levy money for Deer Creek restoration. And he spearheaded the fiscal 2016 budget reductions, which amounted to $500.
As a board member of Friedman Memorial Airport, he worked with others to create a “climate of confidence” for investors such as The Aspen Group to invest in the community with the its Limelight Hotel.
Transportation infrastructure funding is still an issue as state and counties have received only a third of what they need, he said. There also will be an increasing need for more affordable workforce housing as the economy improves.