EAST IDAHO ELECTS: Mayor Jerry Merrill faces Travis Brown in Rexburg race
REXBURG — The incumbent Rexburg mayor is facing a challenger in the coming election. Voters will choose between Jerry Merrill and Travis Brown on Nov. 5.
It’s been four years since Jerry Merrill was elected mayor, and he’s hoping to keep the momentum of his service going.
“I do really enjoy serving as mayor. I enjoy serving the people of Rexburg. It’s been my home for 40 years now,” says Merrill, who’s originally from Blackfoot.
Merrill says as mayor he’s done a lot to secure relationships and beautify and build the town of 27,400 people.
“We’ve worked a lot on beautification. I hope people have noticed the flowers growing along Main Street and along Center Street,” Merill says.
But, he’s done more than just flowers– Merrill has worked to get the road and sidewalks redone near businesses on Center and Main streets as well as placed additional lighting and a fire pit to spruce up the downtown.
Merrill says he’s seen value in building the relationships between the school district, Brigham Young University-Idaho and Madison County.
“Those relationships are good, and we know that we can trust each other and rely on each other,” Merrill says.
Merrill says the city has instituted monthly meetings with community stakeholders and representatives, including the Idaho Transportation Department.
He’s been a part of the non-profit group Kiwanis International, a scoutmaster and owner of a landscaping business, and he says he’s been in touch with the community. He says his interpersonal relationships have helped him appoint the right people to city positions, and those people have kept the city running smoothly.
“I’ve been able to make several of those appointments that I think have turned out well. We’ve had really good people working in our committees and on our commissions that have helped us to be able to do things really well,” Merrill says.
Merrill says he’s also worked to institute a five-year road replacement and repair plan and a 10-year parks and trails project.
“We’re always looking for more ways to be efficient so that we can spend the taxpayer’s money in a more cost-effective way as far as our road constructions and repairs, and snow plowing in the wintertime,” Merrill says. “We try to do that as efficiently as we can.”
Merrill says the town is outgrowing its parks, and he has secured land and funding to accommodate new parks and improvements.
“We have a plan … to be able to help us build some really nice parks for citizens in the future,” Merrill says.
Merrill says he hopes to be re-elected as he’s learned there’s a lot to learn as mayor. He would like to continue the projects he’s already started.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a good job. I love serving the citizens of Rexburg. It’s a great place to be (a) mayor. We have a wonderful college student body here that’s probably the best one in the world. We just have a lot of really great and positive things going for us,” Merrill says.
Travis Brown is a new face in Rexburg politics.
“I was running because I think that I can really make a difference in Rexburg as a mayor,” Brown says. “So I’ve submitted myself as a candidate. I’ve had a lot of support from everybody I’ve spoken to.”
Brown is originally from Canada and was raised in an American-Canadian household. He’s never been involved in a city government but has a passion for politics and serving the community. He works as a buildings supervisor for Brigham Young University-Idaho. Brown oversees the work done at the Student Health Center and the university communications building.
“I don’t have a lot of official experience. I’ve been involved in a couple of different community meetings and things like that,” Brown says. “I’ve been to different community events and … I’ve always had an interest in politics but never had direct involvement in it.”
Brown says he and his family have been involved with the Rexburg Farmer’s Market for almost five years, which has led him to other opportunities for involvement in the community.
Brown stressed the importance of complete transparency with City Hall. One of his first acts would be to live stream City Council meetings for those who aren’t able to participate directly or attend.
“I want to help the community be involved with the city,” Brown says. “I want to push information to the public, so they know what’s going on.”
He says issues like snow removal and the prospect of a dog park are ones he’d be quick to address. He says road maintenance and repair would be addressed as there’s a lot to be done in town.
“I know that this year the city has made a great push to repair a lot of the roads, and I just want to make sure that that is a continual priority for the city,” Brown says.
Brown says he wants the citizens to know exactly how the budget is being used annually. He says there are ways the city can allocate its annual $62 million to be more frugal in its spending.
“I think the people really need to know where the revenue that they’re giving to the city is being used so that they feel like the city is working for them,” Brown says.
Brown says because he’s 30 years old, and a younger candidate, he can be a more relatable candidate for the demographic of Rexburg.
“I’ve got some ideas of things I would like to do, but I think beyond that I would push those ideas aside to do what the people of Rexburg want to do. They’re the ones who are paying taxes,” Brown says.