TWIN FALLS — The upcoming city election has the potential to bring new faces to next year’s City Council, as all three incumbents have challengers.
Voters will decide Nov. 7 who will fill Seats 1, 5 and 6. Until then, incumbents are preparing to bring out their old campaign signs and go door-to-door to solicit votes.
What’s different about this year’s group of candidates? Four of the nine are under 40. And three of the candidates are running for election for the first time.
The incumbents are Suzanne Hawkins, Greg Lanting and Christopher Reid, who will finish their terms at the end of this year.
Seat No. 1
Hawkins, 53, is the city’s vice mayor. She has lived in Twin Falls since 1982. Hawkins was appointed to City Council in 2012 to fill a vacancy, and was then elected in 2013. She and her husband own Computer Connection in Twin Falls.
Liyah Babayan, 31, came to Twin Falls in 1992 as a refugee from the killings in Azerbaijan. Babayan owns downtown business Ooh La La! Boutique and Makepeace, a skincare product manufacturer. She served seven years on the Parks and Recreation Commission and three years on the Twin Falls school board, plus on numerous advisory groups.
Leon Mills, 61, is a lifelong resident of Twin Falls who served six years on the Twin Falls County Commission. He lost a bid for re-election in the May 2016 primary against Don Hall. Mills is retired, but worked for Con Agra Foods for 21 years. He’s been on the Twin Falls Republican Central Committee since 1996.
Eric Smallwood, 38, is a first-time candidate who moved to Twin Falls in 2016 after bouncing between Idaho, Arizona and North Dakota for years. He was born in Sun Valley and graduated from Buhl High School. Smallwood serves on the Recreation Center Committee and is general manager for Holesinsky Winery in Buhl.
Seat No. 5
Lanting, 65, is a retired middle school principal and lifelong resident of Twin Falls County. He was raised on a farm near Hollister. Lanting was first elected in 2005 and served as mayor in 2012-2013. He is finishing his third term.
Tim Allen, 36, is a pilot for Air St. Luke’s. He was born and raised in Twin Falls and has never run for office before. He said he has a desire to be more involved in the community.
Attempts to contact Larry Houser were unsuccessful. Houser was a former truck driver who ran for City Council in 2015 “on a whim.” His goals at the time were to fix up dilapidated buildings around Twin Falls and help change marijuana policy.
Seat No. 6
Reid, 36, who works for Zions Bank, came to Twin Falls in 2011. He was appointed in January to fill a vacancy left by Don Hall, who was elected as county commissioner. Reid was on the Planning and Zoning Commission for two-and-a-half years and has served on other committees. He last ran for City Council in 2011.
Brian Bell, 41, is a lifelong Magic Valley resident who has lived in Twin Falls for five years. He is a network and controls administrator for Amalgamated Sugar Co. Bell has not run for office before, but said he has a philosophical objection to letting any political position run unopposed.