Burtenshaw and Hokanson face off for Idaho Falls city council seat 2
IDAHO FALLS — Incumbent Lisa Burtenshaw and Sandra Hokanson are facing off for Idaho Falls City Council seat 2 in the 2021 Municipal Election
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Burtenshaw: Other than the few short years I moved away for college, I have lived my whole life in Idaho Falls. My parents are Jean and Gary Meikle. My father grew up on Lomax Street in Idaho Falls and was a local attorney for his entire professional career. I have 6 siblings and we all participated in sporting opportunities in the city.
I attended school at Dora Erickson, Falls Valley, South Bonneville Jr. High and Bonneville High School. On the first day of high school, I met my future husband, Bryce Burtenshaw.
I attended Ricks College and BYU, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to my senior year of college, I married Bryce and returned to Idaho Falls to complete an INL internship. I had many great personal and professional mentors during this internship. I have a sincere appreciation for all of the people who helped me during these formative years.
After Bryce completed dental school, we moved back to Idaho Falls, and have lived in the same neighborhood for the past 19 years. We have 4 children.
I began my community involvement in the Edgemont Elementary PTO, eventually serving as PTO president. I continued my volunteer work as a District 91 board trustee from 2008-2018. I was honored to serve as School Board Chairwoman for five of those years. In April of this year, I was appointed by Mayor Casper to serve on the Idaho Falls City Council.
Hokanson: I was born in Russia. My parents were alcoholics and drug addicts. As a child, I went through abuse but lived with my biological family until I was ten years old. At sixteen years old, I chose to get adopted by a family in the United States. I lived in Missouri for three years and at nineteen years old I moved to Idaho. I am married (my husband’s name is Travis), and together we have three children Kiley, 15, Kyson, 12, and Kinlee, 8. I am a stay-at-home mom, a full-time student and I work at as a substitute teacher as often as I can.
I will graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work in 7 months. I am also a small business owner and teach fitness classes and a substitute teacher in D91. I like volunteering and helping with any kid’s programs, or at my children’s schools’ different activities. I also do various fundraisers for organizations in multiple communities.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Hokanson: My proudest accomplishment would be that I built a good life for myself and my family. It was always a goal of mine to have a good life as a child, and I would like to say I did that. I faced physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse as a child, survived an abusive marriage and been a single mom, and I am still here. That is an accomplishment. I am also the first generation that will graduate from a university with a bachelor’s degree.
Burtenshaw: I have accomplished many goals through personal grit and determination. However, the accomplishments I value the most in my personal life and career are those that have been achieved through collaborative efforts.
I am proud of my time on the school board. I was honored to be involved with the community effort to rebuild four of D91’s elementary schools – Edgemont Gardens, Dora Erickson, Longfellow and Ethel Boyes. This was a huge project. It was well managed, came in on budget and will continue to serve our community for future generations. I am excited to continue working with businesses and service organizations to form private/public partnerships to strengthen this legacy. We are better when we are working together.
Life lessons and great advice have taught me to appreciate the phrase, “We drink from the wells we did not dig.” Myself and my children have greatly benefited from growing up in a community that supports youth through education, sports and the arts. I am dedicated to making Idaho Falls a great place to live and raise children. I am inspired by those who have come before me and will work hard to be worthy of their legacy.
What are the greatest challenges facing your community?
Burtenshaw: Access to affordable Idaho Falls Power and Fiber, an expanding Idaho Falls Airport, advanced medical care, a national laboratory, top rated employers, proximity to National Parks and great schools and teachers have all contributed to our city’s rapid growth. Increased traffic, rising home values, and the threat of losing connectivity are some of the challenges the city will face in the next four years.
I believe that through thoughtful planning and a shared community vision, the city council can meet these challenges and address these issues. For example, urban sprawl can become unsustainable, as a city bears all the costs of maintaining services to a sparse and far flung population. Strategic development of infill, where city infrastructure is already present, can reduce traffic and maintenance costs by promoting walkable or brief car travel to meet daily needs.
Another possibility is to proactively improve infrastructure and encourage development for commercial and city amenities to the south and north areas of current city growth. Working in conjunction with Bonneville County, the city could help build the necessary road and intersection improvements to encourage development of both city and commercial amenities in these areas. Living within the City of Idaho Falls should reasonably provide all citizens access to amenities such as bike and pedestrian connectivity, lit walkways, and recreative green space.
Modifying city ordinances for a variety of housing types within the city should help soften the housing market. If our housing market doesn’t soften, I worry future generations will be completely priced out of the Idaho Falls housing market.
Hokanson:I believe the most significant challenges our community faces would be transparency, lack of communication, and mandates.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than you competitor?
Hokanson: As a full-time mom, student, substitute teacher, and small business owner, I have been in other people’s shoes and know how it feels when your city government does not hear your voice. I deal with everyday issues daily, which helps me understand what our community faces and people’s opinions. I can be transparent with people. I know how to have open communication and to listen to others. I believe I can bring in fresh ideas, transparency, and understanding when dealing with issues our community faces today.
Burtenshaw: I am not afraid to ask the hard questions and put in time to learn how things work. When I first began my service in government, I was faced with a steep learning curve and was required to learn how best to use my time and talents. I have now spent years working in the public sector sharing my experiences to help myself and others understand when and how to best engage public officials to make a difference.
I have developed many of the necessary organizational skills related to policy, procedures, strategic planning and finance, but the most important skill I developed is recognizing the importance of putting people first. My years on the school board were excellent preparation for the city council. I have learned to be a good listener, to gather information, and to connect stakeholders to create innovative solutions to complex, multifaceted problems.
Using my formal education as an engineer and my years of public service, I will continue to work hard to develop ideas and solutions that combine individual concerns to achieve large organizational goals. I believe that my experience in government, community service and my deep connection to Idaho Falls sets me apart as a candidate. I am prepared to rise to the challenges that are sure to face our city in the next four years.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Burtenshaw: There are no differences of opinion, politics, or policy worthy of being hateful, retaliatory, or unkind. I believe in the golden rule. Idaho Falls residents can be assured that I will always listen and treat everyone with consideration and respect. Intimidation and coercion to ensure implementation of self-aggrandized policies is the essence of communism. Our differences, and the ability to voice those differences without fear, are the strength and backbone of our democratic republic and constitution.
We are losing the ability to appreciate that our differences make us stronger. Easy does not make us stronger or better and it has become EASY to find the “tribe” of people who agree with us. We can now be very self-selective about who we listen to and associate with. If we don’t like a particular news story we change the channel and hear a different narrative. We subscribe to social media and friend groups that don’t challenge us or our perceptions. And if someone does challenge us, they can simply be cut-off, de-friended, or at best simply tolerated. I will not participate in echo chambers or ignore someone who does not agree with me. I am committed to putting people first not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the most effective way to govern. Our history has shown us time and again that working together is the best way to move forward.
Hokanson: I would try and represent them by listening to what they have to say and incorporating their views and opinions in the decisions I will make. We all have different opinions, political and religious beliefs, and beliefs, but we also all have freedom in our country. We all deserve a chance to speak out and let our voices get heard.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your city? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?
Hokanson: Our media is trying their best to cover what they can, but there can be an improvement. I believe that not everything gets released to the public, and that’s where transparency comes in. People in the community deserve to get informed on what happens in our city. The best way we can fix the problem is to have open communication with our local reporters.
Burtenshaw: As daily local newspapers continue to decline in circulation, it is challenging for local governments to have consistent coverage of issues. When local issues hit the national news, it often comes with the cost of sensationalisms that misses the nuances of community perspective.
At one point in my career I was very uncomfortable speaking to the media for fear of being misunderstood or misrepresented. Although that fear has never completely gone away, I understand how important it is to foster relationships with the media. In the absence of relationships, it is more difficult to have the transparency and accurate reporting we all need and deserve. The 24-hour national news cycle bombards us and small newsrooms across American work harder to cover local stories. I appreciate the effort they make to cover the stories that matter.
I will work to have a strong relationship with local news sources to ensure that the public is aware of the latest happenings in our community.
What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?
Burtenshaw: With a worldwide pandemic and highly transmissible variants it is impossible to achieve a zero-covid community. Distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, increased immunity through natural infection and reliable access to quality masks for vulnerable populations have allowed us to focus on avoiding severe illness or death.
A better understanding of Covid-19 transmission and complications coupled with influencing rather than forcing compliance is the best path to regaining unity within our community. I believe the vast majority of people in Idaho Falls do not want to see extreme measures implemented from either end of the political spectrum. Any extreme measure dismisses individual concern and fosters resentment.
My perspective is that government should acknowledge personal responsibility, respect private business decision-making, property rights, and genuine community concern to avoid extreme measures. I do not believe it is the role of the city council to implement any additional or future measures in regards to Covid-19. I think it is essential for the city government to be competent managers of our city, listen to health professionals, and support locally established public health policy.
Hokanson: When it comes to COVID, we should let people choose how they want to deal with the COVID-19. Our community is a great one, and everyone cares about each other and their families. I trust that everyone can make the right decision for themselves, their families, and people in the community when staying healthy and protecting others.
If you received a multimillion-dollar grant to use for the city in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Hokanson:I would build more free splash pads and parks for the kids to use. I believe it’s good for kids to stay active and entertained so they will stay away from things that might not be good for them. I would also put money into infrastructure, like expanding our roads, specifically the 17th street. And one of the other things I would like to do is help our police department build a new police station.
Burtenshaw: With community input and direction, the city has created several master plans for revitalizing areas such as south downtown, 1st street, Northgate Mile, and the Parks and Rec department. Idaho Falls is a regional center for sports fields, swimming, ice-rink, and the zoo. As the region grows, these facilities are becoming over-programmed and overused. There is a desire to increase and improve these amenities, but the taxpayers of Idaho Falls should not bear the burden of these improvements alone. I would use a multi-million dollar grant to support public/private partnerships, match federal grant money, and work with other municipalities within the region to prioritize all of these plans so they are not forgotten on the shelf.