Three candidates running for Blackfoot City Council
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BLACKFOOT – Three candidates are seeking a seat on Blackfoot’s City Council.
Sean Williams and Matthew Wright are challenging incumbent Chris Jensen for the position. Jensen has served four terms on the city council.
EastIdahoNews.com tried sending the same eight questions to each candidate. No contact information was available for Williams or Wright. Jensen’s responses to the questions are listed below and the answer to each question was required to be 250 words or less. Only minor grammatical edits were made.
If Williams or Wright get back to us, we will include their responses with this story. They can email firstname.lastname@example.org for the questionnaire.
Election day is Nov. 2.
1) Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Jensen: I was born and grew up in Pocatello to parents that were both from Blackfoot or Snake River. I graduated from Pocatello High School in 1986 and served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Italy Catania Mission from 1988 to 1990. In 1991, I married Ann Marie Salverson from Blackfoot. I attended Idaho State University, University of Idaho and Utah State University and eventually graduated from ISU with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1999. I put myself through school by working at a number of places, including Mr. Mower, Spudnik, and Miles Heating. After graduation, I began work at the Idaho National Laboratory with Lockheed in the design engineering department. I received my Professional Engineering license in Idaho in 2003 and have worked for a number of local companies and the INL since graduation. I spent 15 years as a volunteer scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, working primarily with the 12 to 14-year-old boys. We have four children and two grandchildren, all living in Blackfoot. I have spent the last 16 years as a city councilman with the city of Blackfoot and have spent much of the time as the city council president.
2) What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Jensen: My proudest accomplishments would be my marriage of almost 31 years and my wonderful children. Nothing in my mind can top my family. In my career, it would be receiving my Professional Engineering license and being licensed in most western states.
3) What are the greatest challenges facing your community?
Jensen: Growth. This year and next we will likely see the number of houses in Blackfoot grow by a few hundred. Over the next few years, with the developments already being reviewed and approved, we will see a minimum of 1,000 new homes and possibly two or three times that. This will put pressure on the water, wastewater, sewer, garbage, police and fire departments as well as City Hall. We have been working for multiple years to increase our capacity in all departments so that when the growth hits, we will be ready and in front of the curve. Growth is like a snowball — it leads to all sorts of new challenges for the city and even though we have been preparing for it, it will still hit the city hard. Our preparations to date will minimize the impacts when it is fully realized. This preparation and improvements to the city infrastructure will have to continue.
4) How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitors?
Jensen: I have been through 16 budget cycles, 16 audits, and countless meetings when it comes to all aspects of city government. I know how the process works, where to check for unnecessary expenditures or ‘wants’ of the various departments and can put them into perspective in relation to the actual ‘needs’ of those departments. I know how laws and city codes have to be written having written or rewritten a number of them, what restrictions we have due to state lawmakers and state law. I know how each department is funded and what their true job functions are. As an engineer, I have been taught critical thinking skills that help in making decisions based on facts, figures, and needs. I also have to deal with building codes and requirements on a daily basis in my job. When issues arise with developments, upgrades to city infrastructure, etc, I know where to look for the requirements we have to live by.
5) How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Jensen: There is always more than one way to solve a problem. Having had to work my entire engineering career as well as my time on council, I have had to work with individuals that have different views than I do. On subjects where my knowledge is more limited, I rely on the knowledge of those with the experience to help form my opinion. Teamwork is key in being a councilman. I am always open to talking with individuals about issues and opinions. I get stopped in the store, contacted on social media, and get phone calls. I have published my personal number specifically so constituents can get in touch with me to discuss their concerns and will always make time to go over issues. It is all part of the job of being a councilman. Sometimes we may have to agree to disagree but I am always open to a free and open discussion.
6) 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?
Jensen: I have always been open to talking with and working with the local media — print, TV or Internet. It is the main way that people can get informed. I believe that the different news outlets need to make sure they get the story correct and are truthful and honest about the information without including their opinions unless the story is specifically listed as an opinion piece. I’ve spoken with East Idaho News, the local TV stations, and the local newspaper in the past regarding the pool, water tank, and a number of other issues and will always make time to talk with the media just as I do with talking to individual citizens.
7) What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?
Jensen: I believe that mandates violate our individual right to choose what happens to our bodies. I believe that right to choose for ourselves is a fundamental right and I will not vote for mandates of any kind. In formulating my opinion on Covid-19 issues, I have looked at the science, the different views on the vaccines, masks, social distancing, etc. Again, I believe this is a personal decision. I also believe that business owners have the right to require things in their respective facilities. It is their right as the property owner/renter. It is also an individuals right to not frequent stores/businesses that they do not want to or that they don’t agree with. Freedom of choice is a right.
8) 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?
Jensen: Knowing how much things cost, what things are truly important and necessary for the city and what things are nice to have, that money would be used to buy additional water rights. If the amount was large enough, looking at an underpass somewhere in town would also be on the top of the list. That expense would be more than a few million, however. I have not lost sight of the desire by many in the community to reopen the pool. If there were no other critical issues, I would look at repairing, upgrading, and reopening the pool. That, however, is an issue that would have to be agreed upon by a majority of the city council.