by Jamie Hale
Pocatello City Council member Steve Brown stood up and left the room minutes before election officials revealed the final results Tuesday night, fighting nerves about his two fierce challengers. Once the numbers were up, Brown, and the rest of the incumbents in the city, breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
All three Pocatello City Council incumbents fended off fierce competition to hold onto their seats in what ended up being a tight race. In fact, Bannock County only saw three successful newcomers over the 19 seats up for election.
In McCammon, newcomer Kelley Packer and incumbent Karlene Hall won a three-way race for their council seat. A tight four-way race in Downey resulted in wins for Gary Barnes and incumbent Dana Evans. In Chubbuck, another tight race gave seats to Brent Marshall and incumbent council president Kermit Morrison.
Arimo, Inkom and Lava Hot Springs also held elections Tuesday, but all their positions, as well the mayoral race in Downey, were uncontested.
All the real action was in Pocatello, where seven people ran for three different City Council seats in a hotly contested race to the finish.
In seat number one, Jim Johnston, who was appointed to fill a council vacancy in July, defeated local businessman Brad Huerta by a close five percent of the vote. Huerta had tried, unsuccessfully, to run a campaign on integrity and business experience.
Seat two saw a heated three-way race in which Steve Brown, who was appointed in July 2010, defeated the “unapologetically progressive” Scott Odekirk, and Mark Balzer, a fiscal conservative who ran on a platform of responsible government. Brown won with 43 percent of the vote, while Odekirk and Balzer came to a virtual tie. A mere three votes gave Odekirk second place.
Eva Nye, who was first elected ten years ago, easily defeated opponent Paul Gagliardi, with nearly 68 percent of the vote.
The election of three incumbents to the council shows that the city has been moving in the right direction, according to Brown. “This is about years of work, and the people of Pocatello recognize that and they agree with the direction we’re headed,” he said.
The fact that he hasn’t heard much dissent from the public boosted his own confidence in the election. “For the most part, people are happy,” said Brown. “When you’ve got a majority of people saying they’re pleased, we’re doing what’s right. We’re making the right choices.”
Johnston said despite his recent incumbent status, via an appointment by Mayor Brian Blad, he came into the race with plenty of experience. “I’m not a newbie to this experience, I’ve prepared myself to serve the community,” he said after the win.
Johnston said he’s been getting city council agendas for 15 years and knows what issues the city faces. Now that his seat has been confirmed by the voters, he’s ready to get back to City Hall. “I’m anxious to get to work and solve some of the challenges that are awaiting us,” he said.
The results in Bannock County largely show voters who apparently like the way things have been running over the last few years. With 84 percent of the positions going to people already in power, the public seems content with their elected officials. No matter how you look at it, it was definitely a good year for Bannock County incumbents.
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com