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Rigby’s newly elected mayor lays out vision for the future as he prepares to take office

Politics

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RIGBY – Rigby Mayor-elect Richard Datwyler is weeks away from being sworn in as the city’s new chief executive and his inauguration comes amid numerous development projects.

The community is experiencing a lot of growth and keeping up with it has been an ongoing struggle for city administrators. One of the projects foremost on Datwyler’s mind is the upgrade to the sewer system, which has been in the works for quite some time.

The estimated $18 million project aims to bring the city’s sewer treatment plant up to EPA standards. When complete, it will double Rigby’s capacity to be able to sustain a population of 16,000 people — more than double its current population of 5,038 people, according to the 2020 census.

“That’s going to be a big deal, and so making sure that’s going right and finding where the money will come from (is a huge priority),” Datwyler says in a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com. “We have an agency that helps us with grant writing for it, so we’re keeping in contact with them to make sure we’re getting as much funding as we can get.”

The goal is to place as little financial burden on the taxpayers as possible.

Recollections of public life

Though Datwyler is happy to call Rigby his hometown, he isn’t originally from there. He grew up in Nibley, Utah outside of Logan, and obtained a Ph.D. at Utah State University.

He moved to Rigby with his wife, Tannie, and five children about 10 years ago when he began teaching physics at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

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Datwyler was one of three candidates to run for mayor after Jason Richardson, who is finishing his second term, decided not to seek re-election. Datwyler received 47% of the total vote in the November election and is stepping into the role with six years of experience under his belt.

He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the city council in 2015 and was re-elected in 2017. He’s served as president of the city council for the last two years.

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As Datwyler looks back on six years of public service, he cites several things he considers to be important highlights.

“The city isn’t in debt, that’s a good thing. The clerk and the people who work for the city understand the budget and they stick with it,” says Datwyler.

He’s also pleased with efforts to make sure the city is up to code so that commercial space is used most effectively and he was happy to see the completion of the new Pirate Island playground at Rigby South Park in 2018.

RELATED | New Pirate Island Playground officially open in Rigby

He’s grateful to all the city employees who make the city run efficiently and one of the things he’s enjoyed the most is watching people connect with each other during different community events.

“Just a few weeks ago, there was the light parade. Amazing turnout. About a month before, they did the trick-or-treat on Main Street. Councilwoman King helped spearhead that one and pulled the community together. Those are the things I like (to see),” Datwyler says. “It’s those events that make Rigby a good place.”

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Santa waving during Rigby’s Midnight Madness light parade in 2013. | Facebook

Positive reinforcement in the wake of adversity

The idea of Rigby being a good place has come into question this past year. In the wake of two gun-related incidents at the middle school, school safety and bullying have been big concerns for some parents.

RELATED | Superintendent and teachers discuss response to recent shooting and their thoughts on bullying

With the addition of a new resource officer at Harwood and South Fork Elementary, as well as ongoing training programs for police officers, Datwyler says school safety is a priority for the city.

He offers his perspective on the issue of bullying.

“Sure, there’s bullying (in school). Kids are trying to figure out who they are and who they’re going to be in the future and it takes time to figure out that’s not how the world works. But I don’t think (bullying) is any worse (here) than any other place,” he says.

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Datwyler hints at how easy it can be to lose sight of reality just because there were two gun-related incidents that occurred only four months apart. He recalls the high school marching band’s trip to Pearl Harbor earlier this month and the football team’s recent state championship victory for the second year in a row. For Datwyler, these experiences provide positive reinforcement about the type of community Rigby really is.

“Those are the things to look forward to,” says Datwyler. “I think as we educate and try to help people realize (bullying) is not an ok thing, it will get better.”

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Police tape near the northeast entrance of Rigby Middle School hours after the shooting on May 6. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

Forging a path ahead

As inauguration day inches closer, Datwyler says maintaining the city’s code and infrastructure to keep up with growth is his No. 1 priority as mayor.

“Just a few months ago, there were some people just south of Rigby who wanted to bring in about 80 acres into the city, which creates the possibility of 100 new houses coming in. That’s a lot of people when you think about population,” Datwyler says. “As growth comes, you’ve got to make sure (everything is zoned properly) so it’s going in the right places.”

He and other members of the city council are also excited about more improvement projects, including adding a pickleball court to Rigby South Park and a walking path and electrical outlets at Rigby City Park.

As he looks at the next four years, Datwyler has nothing but praise for the council members and the city employees and he’s looking forward to continuing his association and working more closely with them.

“We have great department directors and they (do their job well). My hope, going forward, is that I will be able to help them,” Datwyler says. “It takes time to understand the quirks of the city and there are always little pieces you can take and polish off. That’s what I’d like to be able to do.”

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