Four candidates running for Rigby City Council - East Idaho News
East Idaho Elects

Four candidates running for Rigby City Council

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RIGBY – Four candidates are vying for a seat on Rigby’s city council.

Among the candidates are current Mayor Jason Richardson, Val Orme, Michael Wilder and Becky Harrison, 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.

Richardson: We have been residents of Rigby for over 20 years. My wife and I have loved raising our six children here and being a part of a community that has been so open and friendly. My wife and I met at Ricks College and settled in Rigby immediately after I finished my post-graduate work in education. I have been an educator here in Rigby for over 20 years.

I have served as the mayor for the last eight years, and in doing so I have accrued a significant understanding of the ongoing issues that the city will face. When I was approached to run for mayor, the gentleman asked me to promise not to ever think that the mayor position belonged to me, and he asked me to commit to no more than two terms as the executive. My two terms are up. I have become intimately acquainted with the city systems and think that this knowledge will be helpful to the city if I continue as a council member.

Orme: I am a 21 year resident of Rigby. I was born in and raised on a farm in Fremont county. I am a family man, married 45 years with two children and 10 grandchildren.

I received a 2-year degree in Design/Drafting Technology from Ricks College.

I was in the auto parts business for 10 years, including management. I spent eight and a half years in law enforcement as a volunteer reserve officer, and later a full-time officer on the St. Anthony Police Department. I spent two years as a Certified Basic EMT and volunteered on the Citizen Advisory Board of the St. Anthony Work Camp of the Idaho State Corrections Department.

I served five years on the Rigby Planning and Zoning Commission, including as the chairperson. I have Christian ideals and served almost three years as clergy at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

I am now retired after a 28-year career in the mechanical engineering field, including drafting, design, engineering, project management, and quality control.

I love to golf.

Wilder: I have been happily married to my amazing wife, Jenny, for 16 years. We have four awesome children ages 10-15 that keep us busy with school, church, and extracurricular activities.

I graduated from BYU-Idaho with a degree in Business Management in 2005. I am an entrepreneur at heart, having owned and operated several successful businesses over the years. I’ve owned a local business for the last seven years and am proud to have employed many Rigby residents.

I’ve done volunteer work with my church, doing family activities and events. Coaching high school wrestling will keep me busy in my spare time. I have also enjoyed serving on Rigby’s Planning and Zoning Committee for the last few years, more recently as the Vice Chairman of the committee and the liaison to the county.

Harrison: I am the wife of Brad Harrison and we are the parents of four beautiful and rambunctious children. I was born and raised in Arizona and Brad in Utah; however, I fell in love with Idaho 20 years ago when I attended and graduated from BYU-Idaho. I have a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Political Science.

After serving a mission for my church, I married Brad and settled in Utah for about nine years. When Brad neared completion of his schooling, we were finally able to leave the hustle and bustle behind and we moved to Rigby, which was a little over five years ago. We had a few friends that lived in southeastern Idaho and were thrilled to come and settle into this area.

We love exploring the beauties of our area, especially forest roads that we have never been on before. We love camping in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. I spend my time keeping a tidy home, managing my children’s education of life, visiting, and serving neighbors, managing my camper rental business, serving as a nominated member of the Rigby City Council, assisting with Harwood Elementary’s PTO, and a few other odd jobs here and there.

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

Harrison: Wow, that is a difficult question because I try to be proud of the little things each day. People, in general, are so busy, and I am one of those people. The day is often filled with things that you didn’t even know you would need to take care of that day, so I try to be proud of getting through it all each day!

Some recent accomplishments that come to mind are the fact that I have brought four children into the world, made it through infancy with them, and the fact that they are thriving is a huge accomplishment.

Establishing my camper rental business three years ago and having it now boom is a huge personal accomplishment that my husband supported and applauded me through.

Helping my husband through a few difficult career changes until he finally found an employer that he could be happy and healthy working at has been a huge accomplishment.

Reading, studying and listening to others while attempting to make the best decisions possible for our community as a nominated member of Rigby City Council for the last year has been a huge job and accomplishment.

Pulling off the Spring Carnival last year with the other amazing parents working in the Harwood Elementary PTO was a huge accomplishment.

Wilder: My family is far and away my proudest accomplishment. No success in my professional career can compare to the happiness and joy my family gives me. They are my number one priority and I love attending every musical, dance, sporting, and church event that I can. I live in Rigby because I truly believe it is the best place to raise a family.

In a distant second, I am proud of my personal and professional accomplishments. I have started businesses that have employed hundreds of individuals. I enjoy teaching my employees business and life principles and have seen many of them go on to have successful professional careers. I hope that my influence has made some small impact in helping them along the way. I am also proud of the work I have done with our youth. I have held positions of responsibility for youth for many years, in church positions and as a wrestling coach. It brings me great joy as I’ve seen many of them go on to do amazing things in their early adult lives.

Orme: In my personal life: having a beautiful and loving wife who has put up with me for 45 years and having wonderful children and grandchildren. Also, completing a college education late in life while working nights full time as a police officer.

In my Career: Working on significant projects in a fashion that the company owners really appreciated and that the company benefited from. One of those projects being designing/engineering major modifications to the company’s largest “barrel washer” for potatoes used in some potato processing plants.

Richardson: Without hesitation, my proudest accomplishments are rooted in my family. We have three girls and three boys, each of whom are thoughtful, responsible, and kind. There is nothing else that comes close to the blessing of my family.

In my career, it is a pleasure of mine to have been associated with the Rigby Middle School as a math teacher. The enjoyment that I get teaching skills to local children that will be important to them throughout life is a constant strength. I am also proud of the tutoring and private education that I have been a part of in the community. I am proud to have taught Constitutional courses, economic courses, and a variety of the humanities in private schools and through free community classes.

I have spent my entire adult life in service through my church, Boy Scouts, the schools, and a couple of city positions. I am proud of the service that I have had the opportunity to give.

What are the greatest challenges facing your community?

Richardson: The sky-rocketing cost of living a simple life. The purchasing power of our
budget cannot achieve what is needed in the city at the rate it used to. There are pressing requirements that continue to bear down on us through federal mandates, state requirements, and continued local growth. Each of those cost more and more money.

The city is in the middle of a record-setting growth sector of the United States. There are difficulties that we face when balancing property rights, impact on our neighbors, and responsible growth. We want to maintain a close-knit community that allows families to flourish and to find a peaceful place to call home.

Community involvement and volunteerism has been ebbing since Boy Scouts began shrinking and COVID sent us all indoors. Volunteer boards are harder to fill, service projects are much more rare. This results in a decrease of what our city has to offer, while making maintenance of the status quo more expensive than ever.

Orme: First off, let me say that I am in favor of progress, but I’m also a conservative.
I believe Rigby’s greatest challenge is its growth, and that its growth is inevitable. This growth also requires growth in a myriad of support services to make the overall growth successful. Those support services include sanitation and water systems, roads and their maintenance, police, parks and recreation, etc.

However, this growth needs controlled planning, preparation, financing and implementation, so as not to run rampant, and get ahead of itself. I believe that a constant review and control of these processes can help to avoid explosive growth that may be regretted and be more expensive to deal with later.

I know that as the population grows, the business sector needs to grow as well. I am in favor of business growth, as long as it is in Rigby’s best interest.

Wilder: I believe some of the greatest challenges facing our community are, in no particular order, making sure our infrastructure keeps up with our population growth and development and preventing our community from becoming a “bedroom community.” I have seen in recent years our population growth jump. It’s exciting that others see what we do in Rigby and want to be a part of this community. I fear we are lagging behind in our infrastructure development.

We have concerns over our water and sewage treatment facilities, bringing streets up to code in the event of a repair, overcrowding in our schools and in our streets, etc. I plan to do what I can to help plan better for the future.

I also want to do what I can to ease the financial burden some of this growth puts on our residents. To help do this, we need to ensure that Rigby doesn’t go the way of a “bedroom community.” Businesses can help bring in much-needed tax revenue for our city. I have helped to draw up our latest comprehensive plan. In doing so we have worked to create areas within our city and the impact area where we can plan for future business growth.

I am sure there are many other concerns from our residents and, if elected, I will do my best to hear them all out and help develop solutions.

Harrison: Like every other community, Rigby has a myriad of challenges. But I believe that our biggest challenges are to get outdated infrastructure rebuilt with as little inconvenience to residents as possible and to handle the increasing population in our city and surrounding county in the best way possible. I very specifically did not say to stop the increase of population in our area, because as much as I would love to see the new builds slow down, I have learned very well over the past year that no government entity has, or should have, the ability to stop growth. The only people who can stop growth are the landowners choosing not to sell.

However, we as a city council do have the ability to make sure our planning and zoning board and our wonderful full-time planning and zoning employees have the tools necessary to maintain codes and statutes that will ensure that new builds coming into our city are up to a standard the city and its residents can be happy with. I have been very proud in the last year to see a huge new set of planning and zoning codes passed. But we are not done. There are still so many decisions left to be made to ensure the best outcome for Rigby and that will be a big challenge for our city officials.

How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitors?

Harrison: I in no way profess to be better than my competitors. I can only speak to my desires and qualifications. I was recently told that my biggest flaw as a member of the City Council was that I always tried to bring our discussions to a middle ground, but that a middle ground did not always exist. I took this as a compliment. I do believe that there is always a middle ground when deciding, even if that middle ground is that we must respectfully agree to disagree.

Unfortunately, I have not always seen this practice carried out in my time with the City Council and therefore I felt it critical to try to remain. To be this middle ground council member, I do a lot of studying, especially online through our Idaho State Constitution, statutes, and ordinances, before coming to council meetings. Sometimes I contact experts, residents, or city employees to get firsthand information on a decision or issue that will be discussed. Then I make an opinion based upon the facts and laws I have been presented with and I bring that opinion with me to the meeting. However, during the meeting I am open to any new facts or views brought by residents, employees, experts or other councilmembers, and my opinion can then mutate into the final decision that best fits the interest of the city.

Wilder: First off, I want to say that I personally know most of those running for a council position and I know them to be good people who are interested in the betterment of our community. That being said, I believe I am best suited for this position because I am not the type of person who is only present or just a participant in meetings. I am an active participant.

As part of planning and zoning, I was frustrated by the fact there was little we could do as a committee to help protect the personal property of our city residents from so many high-density and 4-plex developments. It seemed like everything that was coming into our city was high-density and in the backyards of our long-time residents. Because of former codes, there was little to nothing that could be done to prevent this from happening. As a committee, we helped to change our dated code and help provide more of what our residents needed and wanted. If elected, I will continue to be an active participant for change in our community, listen to my constituents, and provide solutions to help make Rigby a better place.

Orme: Mayor Richardson’s past experience as mayor and previous service on the council points in his favor. I am not acquainted with the other candidates or their qualifications. I will just say that I believe my variety of employment in business, law enforcement, drafting/engineering/project management and quality control, with an eye toward detail, as well as my volunteer community service (referenced in question 1), qualify me for a seat on the Rigby City Council.

Richardson: There are four highly qualified members of our community that each want a chance to serve. I have 10 years of experience in the city government, but am impressed with the dedication that each candidate has shown.

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

Richardson: I have always found input from the community a necessary thing for an effective local government. We have provided a time for public comment in our city meetings so that those views are voiced and considered. After discussion and fact-finding, I will vote my conscience. The vast amount of our decisions are not politically volatile, but when they have been, it has always been key to understand the opposing views. I have not been perfect in doing this, but I believe I am good at admitting when I fall short and try to make improvements.

Orme: There are usually at least two sides to every issue, and I believe both sides deserve to be heard. No one can be right all the time, so discussion is critical to determine what is best for the city as a whole. Constituents’ valid opinions need to be heard, discussed and verified or researched where possible. I believe this would be one of my responsibilities on the council — to support giving attention to these valid opinions.

Wilder: I think this is simple. In order to best represent our constituents, we have to listen to them. I have seen too many times in City Council meetings I have attended where our own council has dismissed the thoughts and opinions of their constituents and department heads and moved to make decisions based upon their own personal opinions, bias, and agendas. If elected, I will listen and do my best to represent the views of my constituents.

I will also help to better educate our constituents on the issues facing our community. I have noticed a lot of false rumors and information spread around the community concerning many of our sensitive issues. Listening and educating will help alleviate many of these problems and better represent the views of our constituents. I also believe we need more training within our council to help minimize personnel issues. I am willing and asking for more training, if elected.

Harrison: I will take the same steps that I detailed above. I will form my own opinion based upon research and talking with residents, experts, and city employees, and then I will come together with other members of the council to find the best solution to any issue, no matter what political view I have on the issue.

At times, decisions will be made that not everyone agrees with or understands. This happened to me as a resident when I fought against the zone change of a few acres on my street. But I have learned that if we explain our decisions based upon the constraints of the laws and the rights of the residents, that the differing political views will not matter and that more understanding can take place. In my younger years, I worked as an intern for the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C. I got an up-close and personal view of the federal government at work. I fell more in love with the inner workings of politics and government but also learned that local government on a municipal level was far more influential and less wasteful. I am so pleased that I had the chance over the last year to be involved in our city government. I learned a lot and have come to care more for my community members. I hope to continue being an informed and peaceful influence on Rigby City Council.

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?

Harrison: I believe that the media is incredibly influential to any local government proceeding in the state of Idaho, especially since so many statutes dictate city government decisions and meetings must be published in a local media resource.

I also believe that showing up for the often-lengthy council meetings can be a sacrifice on any family or person’s time. I know it is for me. Therefore, media coverage of the happenings is incredibly helpful for those still wanting to stay informed of the big things happening within our city.

As for what I can do to work with local reporters, I will continue to do what I have always done — answer the phone when they call and answer their questions to the best of my ability.

Wilder: I’m happy to let the media cover our city. Unfortunately, the most viewed and desired media usually involves controversy and a lot of negativity. I will do my best to help make things run as smoothly as possible and in a positive light. If that means very little media attention, all the better. I will make myself available and share information where legal and appropriate. I will not, however, play any political games and bring negativity and controversy to our city.

Orme: Not everyone can or has the opportunity to attend city meetings, so I believe it is good to have the media at city meetings to help disseminate to the public the things the city is dealing with and the city’s actions.

I have never been comfortable talking with reporters one on one. I would just as soon have reporters attend the open meetings and report on what goes on there.

Richardson: The local newspaper has been an important institution since the beginning of our nation. Instead of news, conflict often becomes the most important thing to publish because it sells. Local papers in the country are fading away as the business model changes. But we run a very real risk of not recognizing corruption and hiding malfeasance if we lose our local coverage. National and regional news outlets are not going to attend city meetings and catch the nuance of local decisions. I have worked with our local paper on several occasions to try to provide a clear understanding of what our issues are in the city. I am reticent to develop too close a relationship for fear of appearing to inappropriately shape the news that is covered.

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

Richardson: The city has not ever implemented COVID measures, nor should it ever. The residents of Rigby are not in need of a sitter. Business owners know better how to protect their own staff and customers and should be allowed the freedom to do so. Parents know their families’ needs and risks and can respond quicker and more accurately than the city can.

Orme: Having family members in the medical field and hearing of their experiences, I have become a strong proponent of masks and vaccinations, especially with the COVID variants advancing. However, I’m not for initiating city-wide mandates AT THIS POINT IN TIME. But I would support mask mandates if circumstances get worse. If a mandate is implemented, I would support its enforcement. As most people now know, many COVID hospitalizations can be avoided by masks and vaccinations, leaving more open beds for other unavoidable critical health situations. Masks and vaccinations save lives, thus opening up more hospital beds, which in turn saves other non-COVID lives. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wilder: I believe in less government, not more. We have all been through this COVID experience the last couple of years. I believe we have all had plenty of experience in this to make our own personal health decisions. I’m not interested in implementing any new measures or mandates and I don’t believe it is my place to do so.

Harrison: I believe that our city should continue with the same perspective they have had on COVID-19, which has been to allow residents to research, talk to their healthcare professionals, and make their own decisions on prevention and treatment. I do not believe that I am qualified, nor is it my right, to decide what people do in regard to their health.

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?

Harrison: This is such a great question, but so hard to answer. That seems like a lot of money, but when you are looking at massive infrastructure upgrades and improvements it would not necessarily go a long way.

I would use the grant to increase the salaries of all our department heads and deserving employees and then I would put the rest towards our parks, rodeo grounds, library, and public works equipment. Our employees are some of the BEST in the world, and most of them are paid a wage that I could not survive on if it was what my husband made. But they work for the city because they love it. We need these types of employees!

As for the parks, rodeo grounds, library, and public works equipment, I feel that these are areas that never have enough money but do a great job with what they have. Unlike critical infrastructure like water and sewer that we always find the money for because we can’t live without them functioning, these four areas could do so much more if they had a little more money for upgrades and improvements, and that is why I would give them the grant money.

Wilder: I asked each one of our department heads what they think we should do with it. We have amazing people working in our city. I value their opinions and they have some great ideas! Every one of them said that we need to improve our parks and walkways. We have very little budget available to improve our parks, so this could go a long way. They said, “It is what makes our city pop! That’s where the kids go. That’s where you have your picnics. We need more bands and dances, city events, and unity. It’s where people with different opinions and points of view come together and have a good time.”

We could use it to help with our water system on tank No. 5 and to help reduce some of our 23 million dollar debt from the water treatment plant. I spoke with Chief Tower. He expressed that upgrades to police equipment are always needed. A new database management system will be something we will need to spend money on eventually. The initial purchase is what is really expensive. The current system is old, antiquated, buggy, and complicated. It would cost $52,000 for our initial buy-in, but in subsequent years it is less than what we are currently paying. A portion of that could go to that initial buy-in.

Orme: I really don’t have any personal project interests I would like to bring into the city, so I feel I would use the grant for keeping our city services up with our city’s growth. Some of these things would be updating the waste-water treatment facilities. (Government mandates have made some additional wastewater processing necessary, along with better backup capabilities and some no longer serviceable equipment needs replacing).

Some other distributions would be for parks and their upkeep, public works and all of its infrastructure needs, including possibly some equipment updating, as well as a new city shop for vehicle upkeep and repairs.

I know some municipalities have been, and are cutting police budgets. Having been in law enforcement, I am familiar with what it takes to provide satisfactory police protection and so I would support their needs to make sure, as much as possible, that Rigby is a safe place to live, raise our families and retire.

I’m sure there are other parts of city life that could use some of the grant money, but these are the things that come to mind immediately.

Richardson: I would use it to pay for the improvements that we are anticipating on the Waste Water Treatment Plant. There are changes that are already necessary, and it would be an easy thing to do to prevent further financial impact on Rigby residents.