TWIN FALLS — Voters showed confidence in the current Twin Falls City Council on Tuesday when they chose to keep all three incumbents in office another four years.
The seats held by Suzanne Hawkins, Greg Lanting and Christopher Reid were up for grabs, with each incumbent running against at least one challenger.
In the most contested race this year, Seat 1, Suzanne Hawkins ran away with 51 percent of the vote against three challengers: Liyah Babayan, Leon Mills and Eric Smallwood. Babayan was the second top vote-getter with 25 percent; Mills carried about 15 percent and Smallwood finished with less than 9 percent.
In Seat 5, Greg Lanting beat challengers Tim Allen and Larry Houser with about 55 percent of the vote. Allen got 36 percent and Houser got about 9 percent.
For Seat 6, Christopher Reid won in a landslide against Brian Bell with 72 percent of the vote.
Part of the winning votes could be chalked up to advertising and door-knocking by the incumbents, but some say it also sends a message that the city is doing what it should.
“I think they see we are making good strides,” Hawkins said. “I’m excited for the next four years.”
Voter turnout appeared to be lower than it was in 2015, this time with just 14.7 percent of eligible registered voters casting ballots. Two years ago, 19 percent of voters cast ballots.
Hawkins said her first priority will continue mentor the city’s Youth Council, which now has the largest participation she’s ever seen.
She’d also like the city to finish road repairs after the past harsh winter. Other than that, Hawkins sees the next year as a time when the city should follow up on its existing commitments such as its steps to consider a recreation center.
“The city’s taken on a lot of projects,” she said.
Hawkins, 53, is the city’s vice mayor and was first appointed to City Council in 2012 to fill a vacancy, before getting elected in 2013. She and her husband own Computer Connection in Twin Falls.
Lanting also said he’d like to get street repairs funded as much as possible. But his top priority was getting the city to aid in workforce attraction and development.
“We need to continue working with CSI and industry partners, as well as our high schools, to get people ready for these high-paying jobs,” he said.
The city can do this by helping find grands and funds for workforce training.
The city also needs to ensure its rules are conducive to allowing affordable housing to come in, he said.
Lanting, 65, is a retired middle school principal was first elected to City Council in 2005. He served as mayor in 2012-2013 and will start his fourth — and possibly final — term next year.
Reid admitted he was feeling a little unsure on Election Day, since of the three incumbents he alone hadn’t been voted into office before. The 36-year-old works for Zions Bank and was appointed in January to fill a vacancy left by Don Hall.
Reid came to Twin Falls in 2011 when he made his initial bid for City Council, which failed. But he felt this time around, his years on the Planning and Zoning Commission and other committees have paid off.
“There’s plenty of ways in which you can get involved,” he said.
His priorities for the next four years will be ensuring the city maintains its infrastructure, such as roads and water lines. He’d like to see the city take a more proactive, versus reactive, approach on those budgets.
Reid also thinks the city should help “create an environment where people succeed” — and that might be by staying out of their way.
“I think government has a role, but it shouldn’t be a role to control you,” he said.”It should be something that you don’t normally notice that it’s there.”
Across Twin Falls, activity at polling places on Tuesday was a mixed bag.
Heritage Alliance Church in downtown Twin Falls was seeing a larger-than-usual turnout for a city election. By 1:30 p.m., 66 voters had cast ballots.
“That’s pretty high for our precincts,” said Heather Holston, chief judge for Twin Falls precincts 1 and 2.
Holston saw new registrations, too, as a result of people moving into the precincts from elsewhere in Twin Falls. A few more were new residents from out of state.
One misconception Holston was encountering Tuesday: A couple of people thought the Idaho governor’s race would be on the ballot, Holston said. That isn’t happening until 2018.
At Twin Falls County West on Addison Avenue West — home to precincts 15 and 16 — the turnout was “average” and “pretty slow,” said polling volunteer Rosalyn Varadi, daughter of Twin Falls County elections director Valerie Varadi.
Only 36 people had cast ballots by 1:45 p.m. Two people registered to vote after moving within Twin Falls city limits, but there hadn’t been any brand new voters.
Turnout with a “little slow” and steady with no lines at Amazing Grace Fellowship on Eastland Drive North, chief judge Dave Burgess said. The polling place includes precincts 22-24.
It was busy in the morning, but extremely slow in the afternoon, Burgess said about 2:45 p.m. At that point, he’d seen less than 10 percent voter turnout.
Throughout the county’s 23 precincts, only 4,065 people cast ballots — plus three ballots that came in as blank.