Linda Leeuwrik, Lydia Noble and Bill Miller seeking Pocatello council seat 5
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POCATELLO — Incumbent Linda Leeuwrik is being challenged by two candidates in her bid for re-election to the Pocatello City Council seat number five.
Bill Miller and Lydia Noble will attempt to unseat the Leeuwrik.
While EastIdahoNews.com sent all three candidates the same set of eight questions, Leeuwrik and Noble were the only two candidates to respond. To learn more about the candidates, read their unedited responses below. Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 250 words or fewer for each question.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
LEEUWRIK: I’m completing my first term on the Pocatello City Council and it’s an honor to serve our community. Pocatello is my home and I care deeply about seeing our city and people thrive. Together, we’ve set the city on a good course and accomplished many positive things.
During my first term, I’ve built relationships and trust, listening to and working with community members, other leaders, and staff.
Because I want to help keep us moving in the right direction, help keep us building on our momentum, and be part of helping Pocatello to realize our full potential, I’m running for a second term.
Many years of professional experience, as well as dedication to service, have prepared me well to provide strong leadership, based on thorough research, fairness, common sense, and empathy. I’ve developed leadership skills throughout my career, as a humanities professor and scholar, with a Bachelor’s degree, two Masters, and a Ph.D. and two decades of higher-education teaching and research, most recently at ISU; as an architectural and graphic designer and project manager, overseeing multi-million dollar projects and budgets; and as a retail business manager and buyer, responsible for product lines, managing employees, and payroll.
My dedication to service is exemplified by numerous volunteer leadership positions in nonprofit organizations, including Southeastern Idaho Community Action Agency, Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce Legislative Council and Chamber Chiefs, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, AAUW Pocatello Branch, AAUW Idaho, Zonta Club of Pocatello, Pocatello Elks Lodge, and Centennial Rotary.
NOBLE: I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but have now lived longer in ID (30 yrs. in Pocatello + 2 yrs. in I.F.) than in PA.
I have a BS Degree in Business from the University of Pittsburgh and worked for 30 years at a subcontractor to the federal government at the INL. Retired in 2019, I became concerned about property taxes that same year when we received a huge increase in both our home value and our property taxes.
Now living on a fixed income, along with many other retirees in Pocatello, property taxes are taking an ever-larger bite of our fixed income and regular budgets. I worry that many of us will not be able to continue to afford living in Pocatello if property taxes continue to rise so steeply. Therefore, I got involved in looking into the city budget, a familiar arena for me, and here I am running for City Council!
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
LEEUWRIK: One of my proudest accomplishments is completing the education necessary to fulfill my life-long dream of becoming an educator, specifically in higher education as a humanities professor, which is what brought me to Pocatello and ISU almost two decades ago. I earned a Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech, a Master’s degree from Georgia State University, and a second Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
Receiving a full fellowship to an Ivy League school was the result of dedication and hard work and was a dream come true.
Another accomplishment I’m especially proud of is my years of service, in many non-profit and community organizations, and now in elected office for one term on the City Council. I have devoted most of my career and personal adult life to education and public service, as I believe strongly that these are the keys to a healthy and vibrant community and a better future for all. I believe in giving back to my community and in working together for the good of all.
NOBLE: Gaining the trust and respect of managers, accounting/finance professionals and engineers regarding making smart business decisions. An experienced business professional can make a big difference in any organization when they are given free reign to watch over all aspects of spending.
My proudest accomplishment was changing the entire contracting process within our organization regarding recycling. We moved to an entirely new contract type that saved time, money and ran more smoothly into the future as I was leaving.
What are the greatest challenges facing your community?
LEEUWRIK: I see three main challenges facing our community.
The first is economic development, which Council can advance by streamlining city codes and processes and by supporting education–the first thing companies looking to come here ask about. Although Council doesn’t deal directly with education, we must work with our legislators, university, and school district to support education, something I’ll continue to do. We must be willing to invest in our city to attract people and businesses, in order to expand our tax base to shift the burden off individual homeowners. Pocatello’s current housing shortage is tied to economic development and Council must continue to ensure codes and processes allow developers to address this shortage.
The second challenge is upgrading and maintaining infrastructure. We must keep up with technology and invest in what schools and businesses need to be successful, as well as address specific issues, like water protection.
The third challenge is civility, Council division stemming from a lack of professionalism and placing self-interests above our community’s best interests. I ran for office solely to serve the people and to help make our community the best it can be. Every decision I make and everything I’ve accomplished or continue to work on is about trying to do what is best for our community—no other agenda. The only way to address this issue is to do the job I was elected to do and continue to work with and serve all people in a civil, constructive, solutions-oriented, and collaborative way.
NOBLE: The city budget process and economic development are our most significant challenges. Council members must be willing to dig in, question and discuss the budget process and improve it so we become both more transparent to the public and more functional as an organization determining the financial future of our city. And, not enough serious, concrete effort has been made regarding economic development, despite much discussion.
Bottom-line, economic development is the key to strengthening our city. Good jobs with benefits keep families prospering. Attracting businesses with such jobs is essential for a city to progress, move forward and thrive.
If the Council and employees work together to control spending, this allows the city to become more competitive. If we are more competitive, we will attract more businesses and grow commercial valuations. Strong growth in our valuations keeps levy rates low. Every city decision should be made with economic development in mind.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor(s)?
LEEUWRIK: I believe I have much broader experience—professional, service, and leadership experience—and, as a result, a more diverse skill-set than either of my opponents.
I have financial and business experience, but I have a lot more than that. By not making the budget and drastic cuts my sole focus, I’m able to provide much more balanced leadership. Don’t get me wrong, the budget is one of the most important responsibilities the Council has; however, we must work on other things as well. We must balance all of our obligations and I believe I can and do offer more than just financial leadership.
I believe a strong Council member must have vision, dreams, and ideas of how to make life better for everyone in the community. They must be able to listen to and work with people to find common ground and solutions, to make things happen. I have all of those skills and have been able to use them to serve the people of our community well.
NOBLE: My work experience was directly involved with spending taxpayer money. Where I worked, it was federal taxpayer money. In Pocatello, it is local property tax money. No other current council member that I am aware of has this background.
I have witnessed many innovative ways to save money and get everyone in a large organization “rowing in the same direction” all in an effort to ensure the most efficient, cost-effective work possible. Spending federal taxpayer money has many rules attached to protect us from wasting or misusing that funding. I believe that these same rules apply, or should apply, to spending local property taxes from our citizens.
I want to ensure that Pocatello is getting the “best-bang-for-the-buck” and is properly planning for the financial future of our city similarly to what I saw my company accomplish.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
LEEUWRIK: I’m able to work with and serve all the people of Pocatello. The City Council and Mayor are non-partisan offices, because the issues we deal with on a local level are non-partisan issues. People’s personal politics should never be a problem or a barrier to them being heard, represented and served.
I always approach my role with an openness and willingness to listen to everybody and hear their concerns, questions, and ideas. I always try to have empathy for others, as I don’t know what they’re going through or what their life experience has been and I don’t ever want to be dismissive of someone else’s views, positions, or concerns.
As an educator, I believe in life-long learning and I learn new things from people every day. We never know what people have to offer or where the next great idea will come from; therefore we should always keep an open mind and be willing to listen. I have skills and experience to offer, but I certainly don’t have all the answers. We can come up with the best solutions for our city by working together.
NOBLE: I believe better forums for communication with the public are an essential starting point, and that differing political views deserve to be heard and respected by leaders who are willing to put in the time and effort necessary.
I believe we could begin by using the Mayor’s Newsletter to a much better advantage to advertise “town halls” where 3-to-4 topics are previewed and public questions and feedback are welcomed. Interested citizens could decide if they are interested/concerned and attend. Turnout may start out low, but I believe as word spreads, it may pick up as residents gain knowledge and information on important issues facing Pocatello.
Many citizens have commented to me during campaigning that “they are ‘in-the-dark’ when it comes to what is happening in our city.” I believe we must make an effort to include our citizens to gain back their trust and support on various issues facing Pocatello, especially the ones with large price tags like a possible new City Hall or installing a city sewer system in Johnny Creek.
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?
LEEUWRIK: The media plays a hugely important role in our city, by providing information to our residents. I always try to have a good relationship with local reporters and to work with them on covering what is going on in the city. Those of us in office often know more than the public about any given issue we’re dealing with directly; therefore, I believe we have a responsibility to work with the media to make sure that the information getting out to people is timely and correct.
Local government must always be transparent and the media play a key role in helping with that, by covering and disseminating important information in an accurate way.
NOBLE: Being open and honest with media is important. The media is necessary to help keep the community informed. However, willingness on the part of media to “get the facts correct” and “get individual statements correct” is critical to trusting the media to publish accurate information to citizens. It’s a two-way street. Misinformation is a huge concern for me.
What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?
LEEUWRIK: Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, I believe any and all response to it also needs to be constantly re-evaluated and adjusted. Government at each level has different responsibilities, but public health and safety are always paramount. At the city level, we’re tasked with looking at the situation here in our city, coordinating with county and state elected officials and agencies, and then making the best decisions we can make for our city and its people, given what we know and the immediate circumstances.
NOBLE: I believe that Pocatello has made good decisions regarding the continued COVID-19 pandemic. As the majority of citizens now have access to the vaccines, I believe Pocatello has no reason to get involved again and is correctly allowing the city, retail business and other enterprises to determine their own path forward regarding mask-wearing and vaccines.
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?
LEEUWRIK: This is such a difficult question to answer, to narrow it down because we have lots of needs and I also have big dreams for our city. But I’ll focus here on one thing I believe is particularly important for Pocatello and that is protecting our drinking water. We still have a few areas within city limits where the houses are on septic systems (particularly on the south side of the city). These systems often produce high nitrate levels, which in turn seep into our groundwater, contaminating our aquifer.
The reason this is so important is that the Portneuf Aquifer is our sole source of drinking water. One of the best ways we can protect it is to connect those areas to the city sewers. This is a large and challenging task, but an example of something we must invest in if we want to protect one of our most important resources well into our future.
NOBLE: Recognizing that consultants are not always popular, if I received a multi-million-dollar grant, I would hire the most experienced consultant I could find to study Pocatello and all its pluses and minuses and have them assist our city and our citizens in writing a well-thought-out, well-planned Strategic Plan for the future of Pocatello.
A 10-Year Vision would be a great start. Once the plan is written and vetted by citizens and city leaders, I would utilize all remaining funding to start down that path, whether it be to revitalize Old Town, increase single-family affordable housing, improve sports amenities and city parks, install city sewer in Johnny Creek or any number of other strategic projects to improve our city and make it more desirable for businesses and citizens.
Lastly, I would hope we elect wise leaders who would work together to follow through on that plan to get Pocatello back on track to being the polished gem it can be instead of a “diamond-in-the-rough” as it is today.