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Colin Erickson, Greg Blacker and Mikel Walker among 9 candidates running for Rexburg City Council

East Idaho Elects

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REXBURG–Nine candidates have filed to run for three open City Council positions in Rexburg.

To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each one. Their responses are listed below, were required to be 250 words or less, and were only edited for minor punctuation and grammar. Three candidates featured in this article include Colin D. Erickson, Gregory K. Blacker, and Mikel D. Walker who is an incumbent. You can read about candidates Luke Walker, Robert Chambers and Kelly McKamey here. We will post the other three candidates in the coming days.

Elections are on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Erickson: I was born and raised in a big family on a farm in Star Valley. I met my wife, Jean, at Ricks College, and after finishing my education in criminal justice at WSU, I was hired with the City of Rexburg Police Department and worked my way up to Lieutenant over Community Policing. I have loved raising our four children while being a resident of Rexburg for almost 30 years. I claim it a privilege to be a part of this community and the great state of Idaho with all of the outdoor opportunities we have right in our backyard. Participating in outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, ATV riding, and camping are all things I enjoy doing with my family and friends. I have spent my career being proactive in working with all the stakeholders involved to focus on preventative measures and in building sustainable programs with businesses, schools, and community members. I recently celebrated 33 years with my wife, Jean, who has been an educator for Madison School District for 20 of those years. With both of us being involved with the public through all those years, it has brought a great love for the people of Rexburg and all that the city offers.

Blacker: I was born in Rupert to a dairy farmer who taught me the benefit of hard work. I was taught at an early age to always be of service. We learned to be “heads up” meaning to look around and see what needs to be done and do it. I attended Ricks College then served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hartford, Connecticut. I married Jolene in 1985 and raised four great children on Rexburg values. In 1989 I started Affordable Pest Control and have operated it ever since. I was appointed by multiple mayors to serve on Parks and Recreation for six years, Traffic and Safety for two years, and going on six years on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Walker: I was born in Rigby, where I lived until I was 12. At that point, my parents decided to move their family-owned restaurant to Rexburg. I worked for my father in the restaurant while growing up, learning business skills that would benefit me later in life. I graduated from Madison High School. In 1975 I was hired to work with Madison County Ambulance and Madison Fire Department, where I worked until my retirement in June 2016. At that time, I served as Assistant Fire Chief. I loved my profession as a Paramedic-Firefighter. I was able to develop lifelong relationships with those I served with and the members of the community I served. This time brought me great joy and satisfaction. It was indeed a privilege to serve the people of Madison County. I have been married to the former Barbara Murdoch for 44 years. We have four children and twelve wonderful grandchildren. Barbara and I have owned businesses in Rexburg for many years. We owned and operated Walker Medical from 1990 until 2001 when we sold it. For the past 16 years, we have owned Paul Mitchell the School Rexburg. We have been active in church and community affairs throughout the years. I was elected to the Rexburg City Council in November of 2017 and just finished serving my first term. Prior to being elected to City Council, I served on the Traffic and Safety Committee and on several City, County and State Committees.

What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?

Erickson: My proudest accomplishment is seeing our two daughters and two sons as responsible adults and productive citizens. They are all married and are starting their own families. I have learned that the greatest title ever is “Papa” to three grandchildren so far and look forward to more in the future. I pride myself in being a hard worker and have had great success in helping to instill that quality into our children.

In my career, I am proud to be a graduate of session 273 of the FBI National Academy. This honor is earned by less than 2% of all law enforcement worldwide. It is a three-month leadership training in Quantico, Virginia. I had the privilege of representing Rexburg Police Department back in the summer of 2018. I brought back leadership skills that have helped me train the upcoming officers to carry on the tradition of greatness. In being involved in Community Policing for the past 20 years, I have realized how important it is to develop trust in strong working relationships.

Blacker: Along with my wife, we have raised four children who enjoy getting together and spending time with each other. It warms my heart to see them give time and energy to serve others with time, talents and financial help. I want to build a legacy of service. Career – starting a business that has stood the test of time, I have been able to maintain a price point that is within a budget and providing great service.

Walker:

  • Raising my family.
  • 41 years serving the people of Madison County as a member of Madison County Emergency Services and Madison Fire Department as a Paramedic- Firefighter.
  • Serving as EMS Chief for 34 years and being instrumental in the process of advancing Madison County EMS from Basic Life Support to Critical Care Paramedic.
  • Earning the trust and confidence from those I served and served with.
  • Building and operating multiple successful businesses from the ground up and enjoying those endeavors.
  • Serving faithfully in my church.
  • Serving on the City Council.

What are the greatest challenges facing your community?

Erickson: Ever since the announcement of Ricks College going to Brigham Young University –Idaho, we have been experiencing growing pains at a rapid rate. I feel like this steady growth has brought on challenges with our infrastructure and our safety. One particular area that I feel needs to be addressed is looking at smart growth and taking care of needs for the future, as well as the present. Another challenge with our infrastructure that our community faces is keeping up with the roads and providing safe routes throughout the city. With the influx in automobiles traveling on our roads, it is having a major impact. Our first responders also have an increased load. Our community has been very supportive of our emergency services, but are we keeping up with the demands?

Blacker: The answer here should be growth. Our County has reached the 50,000 resident milestone. With that, we have been put on the map for businesses to come to town. That growth needs to be managed, and I have ideas for that on my website: gregblacker4rexburg.com. The biggest challenge I believe is found in our neighborhoods. As I knock on the door or ring the bell, I hear the owner unlock the deadbolt. After we chat for a bit, I hear them lock the door as I leave. This is not the Rexburg that I have enjoyed for 35 years. I know we can’t go back to where we left our doors open but I do believe that we can create and maintain a safe community. With the new influx of people, I have found that neighbors don’t know each other. We can encourage neighborhood parties, get-togethers at the park, ice cream socials, and activities sponsored by the City, not just the Church. I often ask people as I work in their homes about what brought them to Rexburg. Their response is always “the quality of life”. I do agree that our quality of life is great and that we have stellar residents who have been here for generations. The new families have a great deal to offer we just need to bring the community closer together. We need ideas, and I am willing to listen and act on them. Let’s get something done together.

Walker: Rapid Growth is one of the biggest challenges facing Rexburg. The immediate challenge of growth is the pressure it puts on infrastructure. For example, parking is a major challenge in the downtown area and the streets surrounding BYU-I. Roads and bridges are in constant need of maintenance and repair. When you consider that 51% of property in Rexburg is “tax-exempt,” the tax base is much lower than it is for most communities of our size. Long-term challenges include managing growth so we don’t lose the “small-town” feel of Rexburg that we’ve come to love. Of course, growth also brings the problems of any larger community, including crime.

How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor(s)?

Erickson: As a citizen and employee of Rexburg for almost 30 years, I am uniquely qualified to be a member of the city council. I have been involved in many community programs, various leadership positions, and heavily involved with details such as security, safety, and budgets. I am extremely familiar with the various city entities and how they work together. I know that it takes each piece of the bigger picture to help the city be successful.

Blacker: As mentioned earlier, I am well-rounded in what I have volunteered for. My strength comes with my ability to think of ideas that benefit the community. I have sat in on many meetings where we all share ideas. There are so many things that we can and need to do but they never seem to go anywhere. My goal is to get these ideas in front of more people and follow through to see that things get done. I want to have all the Council members be transparent on what they are doing for the community. I would like a link on the city website to all the council members where they can report progress on their agenda. My advantage is that I go into the homes of so many people each day and have the opportunity to hear their concerns. I believe that people will speak out more if they are in a comfortable environment. I will listen and adapt to find the best possible way to get the best possible result.

Walker: My experience in serving with Emergency Services, as a business owner and serving on the city council has acquainted me with people from all walks of life and from every socio-economic level. For my entire career, I have worked closely with people at the most difficult times of their lives. Those people have opened up to me and shared the deepest concerns of their hearts. I understand very clearly the difficulties that all groups in Rexburg face, and that perspective has made it much easier for me to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I believe the experiences of my life have prepared me in such a way that I am well-suited to serve and uniquely qualified to continue my service on the city council. I know how to work with people and to respond appropriately to their concerns. I am willing to listen to my constituents and address their concerns. I am available to serve wherever and whenever needed. In short, I love Rexburg and its citizens. I have always acted and will continue to act as the voice of reason in the turbulent times in which we find ourselves.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?

Erickson: I promise to be a positive part of the equation by working hard to understand the situations, being out and in the community through personal involvement, and listening to the concerns from the citizens. In all my efforts, I have always tried to do what is best for the city as a whole. My approach is based on solid common sense. I will continue to do my best to keep the spirit of Rexburg alive by making sound and honest decisions.

Blacker: After serving for a while on the Planning and Zoning Commission I found myself going home angry at night when the vote didn’t go my way or someone had said something I didn’t agree on. After some soul searching I knew I needed to make a change in my way of thinking. I adopted the attitude of “everyone is not entitled to my opinion” and that there is a wide variety of differing views that if I gave a chance, made sense also. I could listen and adapt or stay my course or plead my case. As long as I listened to the options and voted the way I felt was right then that’s all I could do. That attitude I have learned keeps both sides talking.

Walker: Everyone deserves to be treated with respect regardless of their political views. I have always treated everyone with respect whether or not I agree with them and will continue to do so. I have always stood up for the rights of all the people I represent. I am way less interested in “who” is right than figuring out “what” is right. When you are sincerely trying to figure out what is right for the long-term welfare of the city, personalities play a very small role in the process.

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?

Erickson: The media has an important role in helping inform the citizens of our city and in helping to get correct information out to the public. It is valuable to work with the media to help understand both sides of the story and not just from opinions and views from one side. I have worked with media on numerous occasions with my career and always try to highlight those positive things that are happening in the community. The citizens need to hear about the success stories and focus on the great things that are going on as well as the critical issues that need to be addressed. I have a good working relationship with the media in this area and have appreciated their efforts in reporting and keeping our citizens informed.

Blacker: The media influence is huge in any community. Often times it’s the only side of a story people hear. I realize that all news is not going to be good news but a balance is necessary. We need media that tells us what is going on in the community. For example, many new families have asked me what there is to do in Rexburg in the winter. I live by the Fairgrounds and witness many cars showing up for events that I don’t have any idea how to find out what they are. If the media were to publish a list of events in our community, they would be better attended and people would know what was offered.

Walker: Media has a major role in covering the activities of Rexburg. My only wish is that they be more involved in covering City Council and other city meetings in order to keep the public informed of what is really going on in the city. I have always been available to reporters from all media outlets to answer questions, to the extent the laws, rules and regulations allow me to do so.

What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?

Erickson: I realize that the effects of COVID-19 have been difficult for everyone. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. I think that COVID-19 has turned into a big political debate, when it should not be. I believe that we need to continue to help the citizens each do our individual part in keeping ourselves healthy and helping those around us stay healthy and safe.

Blacker: COVID-19 unfortunately is still a big issue. The question is asked many times a day about mask mandates and if I have had the vaccine. My Brother-in-law passed away last year of COVID so I am a bit sensitive to that. I believe that a business can make up their own rules regarding what they require for entry. I also believe that I have the ability to pick and choose who I do business with. If I don’t like their mask rules, I can take my money somewhere else. My rule is that if I am in a room where people are wearing a mask I will respect that and wear a mask also. If no one is masked in my general area I will not. If I am requested to wear one I will do that out of respect.

Walker: Of course, this is a difficult issue. Keeping the residents of Rexburg safe is a concern we all share. However, I believe the role of government is to educate, not to mandate. We have all agreed to be ruled by a constitution. I don’t believe we have the right as a city government to ignore the rights the citizens are guaranteed in the constitution. We have a unique situation in Rexburg, where the vast majority of residents have at least some college education. My belief is the government should educate the citizens and let them decide for themselves how to manage their lives and their health care. I have confidence that the citizens of our great community, once properly educated, will make good choices if the government will stay out of their way. Those feelings ring true to me for citizens as well as business owners.

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?

Erickson: If I received a multimillion-dollar grant to use for the city, I would first look at the infrastructure and the arteries of the city. We need to keep ahead of the growth with roads and safety. We need to think outside the box on how to come up with solutions instead of dwelling on the problems. I would create new roads leading into the city and throughout the city to help citizens be safe and allow for expansion. I would also bring more industrial businesses into Rexburg to keep families in our area when they finish their schooling. Last, but not least, I would continue to increase first responders to not get behind on what we have worked so hard to establish for the city of Rexburg in terms of safety and security.

Blacker: This is my favorite question. I would expand the nature park into the golf course adding a bigger lake with clear fresh water and make a beach like at Rigby Lake. I would also add some horseshoe pits, pickleball courts and playground equipment. Along one side I would put in a food court with hook-ups for food trucks and trailers. I would add a visitor center by the highway.

My wife and I travel to many different towns where we are greeted by a visitor center with a list of activities and events for the area. One of our favorites was Butte, Montana where we went to the visitor center and found walking tours of the city that told us about their history. And various other attractions. It is now a destination city for us, we will go back to enjoy more.

There is so much that Rexburg has to offer that we need to get the word out so we can be a destination city also.

Walker: If Rexburg received a multimillion-dollar grant, I would be inclined to put it towards improving the city’s infrastructure. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t lament to me the current state of road and parking in Rexburg. And the truth is, everyone would benefit from those things being improved. Of course, there are any number of worthy projects, but improving infrastructure benefits the most people in a positive way. It should be obvious to everyone that the city can never reach its full potential until the infrastructure is in place to support everything else we want to do. For that reason, that is how I would propose such a windfall would be used.

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