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‘I left a lot of things on the table’: Sorensen, Beitia locked up in strange mayoral race

East Idaho Elects

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AMERICAN FALLS — It may not be completely unprecedented, but it is certainly unique.

According to his own research, Marc Beitia is the sixth person to step down from an elected office then return to run for that same office in Idaho history.

Beitia was elected to his third term as mayor of American Falls in 2017. Then, last summer, he resigned from his position. The resignation from the part-time mayoral position was planned, and required to satisfy his ability to retire and receive benefits from government employment.

It was decided that, rather than taking his required 90-day leave, Beitia would leave the office for the remainder of the term. First-term councilwoman Rebekah Sorensen was tapped to fill the role.

Now, Beitia and Sorensen find themselves pitted against each other, battling for the right to guide American Falls through the next four years.

“I don’t have any real desire to run against Rebekah,” Beitia told EastIdahoNews.com. “I think she was a really good council person … but I left a lot of things on the table. I’d like to finish at least some of those things. That’s why I’m running.”

Sorensen finds herself in a similar boat. Over the last 16 months, she has had zero intention to be a seat-filler, using her time in the mayor’s office to improve relationships between the city and outside entities. She has entrenched herself in the duties and found a passion for the position.

In her year-plus as mayor, Sorensen has overseen a complete revisal of the city Code Book, which is currently under legal review and will be returning for final review and finalization next year. She wants nothing more to see that through.

“It’s demanding,” she told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s been a sacrifice, but very rewarding. … I’m not ready to be done yet.”

With the original plan for Beitia to take a 90-day leave and hand the keys to the city over to city council president Gilbert Hofmeister nixed, neither Sorensen or Beitia were sure what to expect when the 2021 election season arrived.

The two carried an open dialogue for the past year, both said, and Sorensen was expecting Beitia to announce his candidacy. But she expected him to announced his candidacy for city council.

“I was a little surprised when it was for mayor,” she said.

Beitia wasn’t sure if another campaign of any kind was in his future as recently as early this year, after all, he has continued his position as a teacher at American Falls High School. He also coaches football and is the head of the American Falls Future Farmers of America organization. But, about six months ago, residents began to ask if he would be running for mayor.

Interest from the public along with a need to complete all things started instilled in him from childhood led him to file for the mayoral race.

A similarly stoked fire drives Sorensen.

Rebekah Sorensen
Courtesy Rebekah Sorensen

She has led the city into a movement for long-term growth, one that she admits will be difficult, all while guiding the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. Among several issues Sorensen has begun to address is the threat to the longevity of the city’s water supply.

“We have thirteen miles of deteriorating, inadequate, noncompliant water lines running under the city that need to be replaced,” she said in her response to a recent questionnaire from EastIdahoNews.com. “In addition, we have water-consumption concerns because our city uses more than twice the state average per capita.”

“Fixing some of these issues, it might be kinds of painful now but it’s so we don’t have those issues in decades and generations to come,” she added. “We can fix it now.”

Both candidates have plans for the next steps facing the city of American Falls, and how to go about taking those steps.

And because of their ability to work together, no matter the outcome of November’s election both will be able to provide input as the city continues down that path, because, as Beitia said, teamwork is required.

“In a town this size, if you can’t do that you’ve got bigger problems.”

As he walked door-to-door Thursday afternoon, discussing issues of concern with citizens, which he plans to do with the residents of each of American Falls’ 1,000 or so homes, Beitia offered EastIdahoNews.com a candid glimpse into this unique campaign.

“I have the time to (be mayor). I’m willing to do it. And there’s things that I’d like to finish. But if it doesn’t work out, if the citizens make the choice, that’s fine. You accept that and you move on. There’s going to be something that fills whatever time that might have been — whether I get to go fishing more, or hunting more, spend more time with my grandkids or my kids at school, whatever it is. … nature hates a void.”

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