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Rick Cheatum facing challenger James Bucci for Pocatello council seat 6

East Idaho Elects

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POCATELLO — Richard “Rick” Cheatum is seeking re-election to seat number six on the Pocatello City Council as the end of his first term draws near.

In order to secure the seat he has held for nearly four years, Cheatum must beat challenger James Bucci. sent both candidates the same eight questions. To learn more about the candidates, read their responses below. The candidates were asked to keep their answers to 250 words or fewer for each question and some responses were edited in order to abide by this requirement.

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

CHEATUM: My BS in journalism from the University of Kansas launched a broadcast news career that brought me to Pocatello in 1977. Over the past 44 years, I have worked in radio, automobile sales, and credit unions. My wife, Debra, and I have one daughter, Nicole, who lives and works in Ada County. I have been heavily involved in wildlife conservation organizations for many years and have been the MC for many banquets. I currently serve as the Idaho Fish and Game District 5 representative on the Shooting Range grant committee. I am the Past President of the Pocatello/Chubbuck Chamber Chiefs and the Past President of Portneuf Valley Partners. My current term on the Pocatello City Council is my first experience in an elected office.

BUCCI: Call me James. Yes, that’s a shout-out to Melville. James is actually my middle name and Bucci is my last but- Call me James. I have a fifteen-year-old son who lives with me. I was born and raised in Massachusetts until I left for the Marine Corps. I then lived in North Carolina, went back to Mass for a bit and then lived in different parts of the country until I settled down in Idaho a few years back.

I graduated high school and took some college courses, but I’ve learned the most from used bookstores. I’m a bibliophile and suggest you check out Walrus and Carpenter Books in downtown Poky. It’s an amazing store with an even better proprietor.

I’ve done some random volunteer work like helping with cleaning up parks and rivers back home and some work on houses but nothing consistent, and don’t have a lick of experience in public office which I consider a plus in today’s politics.

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

CHEATUM: Aside from my pride in my family, there have been highlights in each of my job paths. I was twice the top salesperson in the northwest zone for small market Honda dealers. I was offered a job by Associated Press in New York City but turned it down. I started a new division of indirect lending at ISU Credit Union, now Lookout Credit Union, and increased the loan portfolio by 44-million dollars in 23 months.

BUCCI: My proudest accomplishments would be giving my son a good life, doing my best and working my hardest every day I work, and helping those who have needed it. I may not have been the perfect parent, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to be. At work even when I’m not at 100% I give all that I have and if I see someone who needs help, I will be there asking if they need something. The medals, promotions, and raises are nice but those aren’t what I’m proud of. They are the results of my ethics, my character, and that’s what I am truly proud of. Being a good person is startlingly underrated in today’s world and this is a major fault of our society.

What are the greatest challenges facing your community?

CHEATUM: Pocatello is experiencing growth unseen in our community in a generation. But with that growth, we are experiencing a severe housing shortage, an explosion of housing and construction costs, and a serious labor shortage.

BUCCI: We need to get the proper resources and pay our first responders to deal with this (drug) epidemic. It’s not about putting people in jail but reaching out before they end up in jail. When we do rehabilitate someone, we need to hold them up as examples that it is possible and even use them as an ambassador for the police.

In schools, we need more teachers. There are too many students per teacher in most schools. We need more money for teachers and there is no getting around that. It is more than just teachers though. We have been doing long-distance learning for over a year and I think we need to start integrating this in our schools to connect with others across the nation and world. We can learn a lot just from sitting in classes with one another and we can now do this because of today’s technology.

Most importantly, we need to stop the hate and disrespect that is raging in our city. I’ve heard people talking s*** because of someone wearing a mask and vice versa. It is their right to do as they please. I hear people talk down to the homeless and addicted forgetting that they are as human as everyone else. Why do we have to belittle those that are down? We need to start helping one another and stop with the dumb a** prejudices we have taken up.

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

CHEATUM: These problems are not easily solved by the government, since they are better suited to resolution by private enterprise. I am encouraging the Pocatello Planning and Development Department and the Building Department to examine our zoning and building codes to speed the approval process for developers and builders. Through my many years in Pocatello, I have developed relationships with many realtors, developers, and builders and regularly hear from them about issues they encounter.

BUCCI: It’s my life experiences that make me better suited for the City Council than my opponent. I am not and will never discredit or insult him, but my life has given me a unique look at the problems facing our society. I am a common laborer and am proud to say it. I’ve cleaned toilets, cooked food, stocked shelves, shoveled snow, worked construction, pumped gas, and served for eight years in the Marine Corps. I worked my a** off all my life working, giving each job my best, and like many other people feel we need more representation in government.

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

CHEATUM: I am always willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and am not intractable in my opinions and decisions. No one can know everything about everything and I am willing to change my mind if I am presented with facts. However, constituents, need to also understand they might not have all the facts and information and might be wrong on an issue.

BUCCI: To represent the views of the voters you must go to them. I will be knocking on doors to ask people what their concerns about the city are when elected. I will listen to what people say and work to get what they need. Even if I have different views than someone else there is always a middle ground we can both agree on. Politics isn’t all or nothing, it’s about compromise, and we all need to make concessions on behalf of each other to improve the life of all.

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?

CHEATUM: As a former full-time broadcast reporter, I find the lack of coverage of local issues appalling. All too often, a reporter will come to a meeting, or call after a meeting asking questions, without any of the background material necessary to understand the issue about which they are about to write a story. I am always available to talk, on and off the record, to clarify or explain an issue, if I am assured a reporter is trustworthy and does not have an agenda of their own.

BUCCI: I think the media in the city does O.K. in covering our city. I would like to see more reporting on what happens at local government even if it is a bit mundane at times. It seems it only gets media coverage when there is fighting going on in City Hall. I would also like to see them do more on debunking the misinformation that is being reported.

I will be sending updates on what is happening in our government to the local news outlets at least every other week. I hope to have a good relationship with them and will try to work with them to get the information out to the people so they can stay informed. Whatever form of media a person uses to get the news I hope to update them on what is happening within the city.

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

CHEATUM: My voting record on COVID-19 is pretty clear. I am not against masks or vaccinations; I am against mandates of any kind. I feel cities should stay out of the COVID-19 mitigation discussions, because small scale actions will not help.

BUCCI: At this point in the pandemic, I don’t see anyone changing what they are going to do. Even when we had a mask mandate people weren’t following it anyways. At the store, I worked in if people didn’t follow the mask rules nothing happened. They could’ve gotten a security guard to enforce this before people got in, and I believe they should have, but it was easier and cheaper to just let it go. It seemed to emphasize our capitalist system and our care more for profits over people. If I walk naked into a store I’d get kicked out and that’s what all the stores should’ve done when people didn’t wear masks.

Ideally, I would like to have a mask mandate until November 20th. It would help to reduce spread which will, hopefully, help reduce the number of patients in our hospitals. People employed by hospitals and doctor’s offices have been working their asses off during this pandemic and we need to help them reduce the cases they are seeing. It would also make it safer to travel and have get-togethers for the holiday season.

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?

CHEATUM: A million dollars doesn’t go very far in today’s world. If I had several million dollars to spend any way I chose, I would have a difficult time choosing between three pet projects.

1. the Simplot Square improvement project planned by Historic Downtown Pocatello.

2. The Portneuf River Project and completion of the pilot program at Centennial Park.

3. Construction of a Civic Center that could be used to accommodate the Senior Activity Center, New Knowledge Adventures, a Boys and Girls Club, and a community meeting and convention center. 

Each of these projects would be valuable additions to the city and help to kick-start a revolution of thinking about what is possible in Pocatello.

BUCCI: If I got a multimillion-dollar grant I would put it towards first responders and teachers. I would like to get more resources for the police, firefighters, and EMT’s and then give them raises because these are the people we reach out to when we are in trouble. They deserve better pay and proper equipment. It doesn’t just help them but the whole community. The less crime and more effective our first responders are the more money the community can bring in from businesses and people wanting to come to our city.

For teachers, I would like to get the proper technology to have classes with other schools across the country and world. Then I would hire as many teachers as I possibly could. I want the best school system in Idaho. I want to people move here because our schools are the best. Again, this is something that will help bring in people and businesses which leads to more money being invested in our community.