Blackfoot mayor charting a path forward after narrow runoff election victory
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BLACKFOOT – After winning a narrow runoff election victory, Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll says he’s happy to put the negative tone of the campaign behind him and focus on moving forward.
As he looks ahead at the next four years, one of the things foremost on his mind is his age and the circumstances surrounding his decision to run in the first place.
“When I ran in 2017, I said I am most likely a one-term mayor. I’ll be 73 when this term is over in January and I had been retired for almost eight years,” Carroll tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Carroll stepped down from a 35-year career at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2009. One of his primary responsibilities included overseeing large budgets and managing fleet operations.
He’d been civically involved during his tenure at the INL, serving on Blackfoot’s transportation committee. About 11 years prior to being elected mayor, he had been actively attending city council meetings.
His initial motivation to run for office four years ago was based on concerns about the city’s budget.
“I sat through … probably eight different audit presentations,” Carroll recalls. “They (the city) were doing everything appropriately, but they did not have a reserve (fund). Essentially, the city was living paycheck to paycheck.”
After getting elected, he put measures in place to cut costs wherever possible. During Carroll’s first year in office, the city built up a sizable reserve fund, which has continued to accrue in subsequent years.
The retirement of at least half a dozen city employees during Carroll’s first term allowed for some staff restructuring that also helped reduce costs and improve communication and efficiency.
“I brought together (different department heads) and created a Public Works Council,” Carroll explains. “I don’t know of any other city that operates that way, but I’m proud of it because it’s developed a real spree decorum kind of feeling and I think we’ve made some big changes as a result.”
Carroll’s re-election comes amid a two-year $15 million upgrade to the city’s sewer treatment plant. Efforts are also underway to begin planning for a $20 million capacity upgrade, which is slated to take place over the next four years.
It’s been a very involved project for a man who came out of retirement to run for mayor.
“When they opened up the window to file for elected office (during this last election cycle), I was still of the opinion I’m not running. I just didn’t see that I had the mental or physical energy to do it,” he says. “I would’ve been happy to turn the job over to (someone else). When I saw the candidates who filed, I just didn’t see (someone with) the background … to carry on the groundwork we had laid.”
‘Continuing on the path we’re on’
With a second term ahead of him, Carroll is looking forward to “continuing on the path we’re on,” a path that has come with small, but steady growth in the last several years. In 2020, Carroll says the city gave the approval for the construction of 172 new homes. An additional 257 homes are currently under construction or are slated to be built in the near future.
As these homes are completed, Carroll says Blackfoot’s sewer treatment plant will be near capacity. Though there are looming infrastructure issues that need to be addressed — including road repairs on Fisher, Riverton and Pendlebury, to name just a few — being able to provide homeowners with water and sewer functionality is Carroll’s No. 1 priority.
The bulk of the project will be funded through grants and loans from the Department of Environmental Quality and when all the upgrades are complete, Carroll says it will be one of “the premier sewage treatment plants in the Pacific Northwest.”
“When phase 2 is done, I don’t think anybody is going to be any better than we are in terms of efficiency and cost. When we get through Phase 3 and 4, it will be a model,” he says.
Though many people think of Blackfoot as a bedroom community, he says there are just as many people who travel from other communities to work in Blackfoot and one of the things that makes it an attractive place to live is that it offers all the services — ambulance, fire department, etc. — a big city offers.
With so much growth going on, Carroll says Blackfoot is on the cusp of change, but the challenge is to know how to effectively walk the line of a burgeoning small town without becoming a large city.
Carroll is pleased to have been re-elected so he can see these projects move forward. He hopes to leave it in the right hands so he can eventually get back to enjoying his retirement in a community he loves.
“I believe in civic responsibility and I wanted to see these projects continue on. That’s why I ran again,” says Carroll.