Get to know the Rexburg City Council candidates

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Candidates debate issues at a city council candidate debate on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at the Romance theater. Photo credit: Elise Forbes

Election day for Rexburg City Council is Tuesday, Nov.2. These nine candidates are competing for three open seats.

Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers currently works as the director of the BYU-Idaho Religion Department, but has spent most of his career working in local government. His public service includes six years on the Pocatello City Council and 16 years as director of development and planning for Pocatello.

Chambers describes public service as his passion. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public administration and a Ph.D in political science.

“I found that when I took my position here at BYU-Idaho, that this is where I was supposed to be,” Chambers said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my former field and passion of study.”

During his service in Pocatello, the professor focused his time on land use issues, economic development and legislative issues.

One success Chambers saw was the procurement of 12-14 million federal dollars raised for Pocatello by a DC lobbyist. Chambers worked with the lobbyist as they brought package projects from Pocatello to DC. This federal funding enabled the local government to care for Pocatello while keeping taxes low for residents.

Working in local government means managing efficient and effective services while keeping government spending down. Chambers enjoys the challenge.

“That’s what I like! It’s always different. Every day is different,” Chambers said. “I didn’t always like the contention, but I found that if you can sit down with people and just have a conversation, usually you can work it out.”

Chambers and his wife have lived for Rexburg for 10 years, with three years in Utah as mission president of the Salt Lake City South mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The professor believes that citizens shouldn’t have to worry about the government fulfilling basic responsibilities. He calls this the invisible footprint.

“The less people see the services we provide, the better,” Chambers said. “So that you don’t have to think about turning your tap water on and wondering if it’s clean. When you go out and walk will there be sidewalks? When people have to think about those things, you are no longer invisible. … I want the best possible service level.”

Among the things that he hopes to fulfill as a city council member, Chambers hopes to help the city find more money to maintain the streets, and develop trust between the government and citizens.

“I really want to encourage a trust among the residents that this is not a government that is out to get you,” Chambers said. “This is not a group of individuals that has any other agenda but yours. We have a role to play, we want to play it well, but we are just residents like you. We want to do our best. That’s it.”

Brad Wolfe

Brad Wolfe, business owner and longtime public servant, has served on the Rexburg City Council for eight years. Aside from running a lighting business, Wolfe has served on hospital boards and on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors for 12 years, where he also served as president. He enjoys serving and loves the community.

Wolfe sees his 40 years of business experience as an asset to the city council.

“It is interesting because a lot of people think that the city government doesn’t have anything to do with business,” Wolfe said.

According to Wolfe, a lack of understanding concerning elements of business such as budgets, credits, debits and spending can get a city into financial trouble.

The candidate has combined his experience in business and local government as he took on liaison assignments.

One assignment was with planning and zoning, where he has attended meetings for six years. Wolfe believes that his 40 years of experience as a contractor have given him greater understanding in regards to city zoning. He has also worked with urban renewal, the police department, the golf board and the airport board.

The resident of 16 years chose to move back to Rexburg while reflecting on where he wanted to retire. Wolfe lived in Rexburg while studying at Ricks College and the city’s feeling brought him back.

“Of all the places in the world we decided to come to Rexburg, Idaho,” Wolfe said. “There are just so many great people here that want to do the right things. And that’s what I like.”

When reflecting on the issues that Rexburg faces, Wolfe cites challenges that come with city growth. Although he supports growth, the candidate sees how traffic, highways and water and sewer management can be affected by growth.

“I’m for growth,” Wolfe said. “But I think we need to watch how it grows … and be sure we’re not overstepping anyone’s bounds and we’re doing the very best we can to maintain the type of community that we have.”

Wolfe describes Rexburg as a uniquely supportive and cooperative community. He has seen cooperation not only between citizens, but between local and country governments with the sheriff’s department.

“We all work so well together,” Wolfe said. “That doesn’t happen in very many communities. That is important and I hope that we can maintain that forever.”

In the end, Wolfe is running for reelection because he believes that his experience in business, local government and as a city councilor have prepared him to serve Rexburg.

“I don’t know if I consider myself a leader, I just consider myself a servant that enjoys doing what he can … to make a better life for everybody,” Wolfe said.

 

Jacob Flamm

Jacob Flamm, a local business owner and longtime Rexburg resident, decided to run as a result of his sense of duty to the community. After being involved in local politics, several people encouraged the candidate to run.

In Flamm’s words, his family has been here ‘since before Rexburg became Rexburg.’

“With that heritage I have always felt a little bit of a kinship to Rexburg especially, and I wanted to continue to do my part,” Flamm said.

The candidate knows that Rexburg is experiencing growth, maybe faster than it can keep up with in some regards, he said. With the need for road maintenance and other projects, as well as future events such as a new temple and an ever-growing university, there is lots to prepare for.

Some current issues that Flamm has noticed include the need to relieve traffic, perform road maintenance. He also has concerns on the implementation of LIDs (local improvement districts).

“I think we need to do a little better job of working with the residents, especially with some of those projects,” Flamm said. “And make sure that everybody is in agreement … so that we can go forward amicably without having any issues arising.”

Flamm believes that the skills and experience he gained during his years in the mortuary industry and as a business owner will be beneficial as a city council member. He has not only learned deeper compassion and understanding as he worked with grieving family members, but also how to run a business, and have productive customer service.

After his many years in Rexburg, Flamm believes that he knows the city’s culture.

“I understand how we love to be respectful, and we also expect respect in return,” Flamm said. “That is one of the things that I think we need to focus on, especially in the political climate we seem to find ourselves in … we need to just sit down (and) talk to each other. … That’s really what I’m hoping to accomplish.”

He hopes to represent the residents through open dialogue.

“(The residents) are really the ones we are representing and we need to make sure that we have their best interest in mind with any of the decisions that are made,” Flamm said.

Greg Blacker

Greg Blacker has been involved with city volunteer service for 14 years. He has worked in the traffic and safety department, parks and recreation, and planning and zoning commission.

During his service, Blacker has come up with ideas that never came to fruition. He is running because a spot on the city council would be an opportunity to bring those ideas to life.

The business owner grew up in Rupert, Idaho, then came to Rexburg to study at Ricks College. He found Rexburg to be a great place to live, and a friendly community. After graduating, he chose to stay. Blacker then started an affordable pest control business, which he has ran for 32 years. Business ownership has taught him fiscal responsibility and how to be on a budget, which he sees as important skills for a city council member.

Photo credit: Elise Forbes

Although the city is growing, Blacker hopes to help Rexburg retain a positive sense of community.

Blacker recounted a time when, while driving, another driver flipped him off. Not long after, the two men stopped side by side at the stop light. Blacker asked what he had done, apologized for any wrongdoing and engaged in a short conversation. As the light turned green, the two drivers thanked one another.

“This is not how we act in Rexburg,” Blacker said to the driver. “This is not how we are.”

If elected, the candidate hopes to improve city lighting. He notes that the area around the university is well lit, but smaller neighborhoods and outlying areas are dark.

Another hope is to track progress made by city council members and make that information available to the public. The candidate envisions a part of the city website dedicated to publishing a track record of the accomplishments of council members. He hopes to make a difference that citizens can track and hold their local government accountable to.

“A lot of people don’t know what (city council members) do,” Blacker said.

Luke S. Walker

At 26 years old, Luke S. Walker is this year’s youngest candidate. He chose to run for office to protect the principles that he values.

“I was not happy with how certain issues have been handled at the local level the past couple of years,” Walker said. “I am a strong believer in obeying natural rights and natural law and constitutional principles even at the local level. I’d like to plant those seeds and effect that change as I can.”

Walker has lived in Rexburg for three years and plans to stay for many more. Although he initially came to Rexburg as a BYU-I student, it was not the only reason Walker made the move. He appreciates being part of a smaller, family community. He is currently working and plans on raising his family here.

The candidate is a co-host of Defending Idaho, a podcast addressing state and local politics in Idaho. He also hosts The Higher Principles podcast.

“We try to boil down the politics to principle, because everything can be boiled down to principle,” Walker said.

The candidate considers himself a conservative hippy, meaning that he is a staunch supporter of the constitution, while appreciating agrarian principles and being in tune with nature.

Walker hopes to bring a respect for natural rights as a city council member. He defines natural rights as respect for liberty, property, life, freedom to travel and freedom of association. He has had issues when it comes to subjects such as bodily autonomy and taxation.

“When a society respects natural rights, they tend to prosper,” Walker said.

The candidate says that if elected he would never advocate for any health mandate or support the use of federal grants. He also wants to clean up unnecessary municipal policies.

Crystal Hill

Crystal Hill, a stay-at-home mother with experience in election campaigning, chose to run for city council after a series of events — within local government — led to what she calls, ‘catastrophic events’ happening to her family.

“We wanted to make a difference and to ask individuals as well as departments to follow procedure as well as be accountable and be integral people,” Hill said.

The candidate believes that these events were a result of the local government’s negligence to practicing proper policy and procedure. Hill hopes to make local government more transparent, accountable and integral. She would do so by ensuring that individuals are well trained and ensure that departments run well, free from holes and gaps.

A sign for candidate Crystal Hill is placed near campus.
A sign for candidate Crystal Hill is placed near campus. Photo credit: Elise Forbes

Hill’s interest in government was sparked 10 years ago when she participated in a grassroots campaign for Morgan Philpot. She was intrigued to see a candidate that loved the country so much. Her time working on the campaign provided her with lessons and friendships.

“The energy was amazing,” Hill said. “It really made me excited and opened my eyes to understand how government works and understand, unfortunately, the corruption.”

The candidate worked at World Gym until recently, and is now a stay-at-home mother. Hill’s experience as a mother of six has helped her develop a variety of skills.

“I would dare say being a mom … you do learn everything,” Hill said. “You learn patience beyond compare, you learn how to mediate between two very different stories. You learn to put on a face and get excited even when days are hard.”

Being a mother and a wife has helped Hill develop self mastery and grow in a unique way. She hopes to bring this experience to the table as a member of the council.

When asked about her hopes as a potential city council member, Hill said she hopes to bring the community together. Although Hill admits that, in her words, it might be a dream made of rainbows and butterflies, she believes that unity within a community is important.

“I have such a dream about bringing the community together, ” Hill said. “Truly my biggest passion would be to bring unity into our little community. We call it community because it has the word unity … I would love people to learn to know their neighbor and to love their neighbor.”

In addition to increased unity, Hill wants to ensure that local government runs properly and people are being heard.

Mikel Walker

Mikel Walker, former emergency medical service chief and current member of the Rexburg Police Department, said he has learned a lot during his four years on city council.

The incumbent lists a greater understanding of the inner workings of local government, a more open mind and appreciation for teamwork as lessons he has learned as a city council member. He has also learned that personal agendas need to be left behind.

“You are working for the betterment of the community and not just one or two people,” Walker said.

The candidate and current council member has been in public service for most of his life. After retiring from the Rexburg Fire Department in 2016 after 41 years of service, Walker chose to run for city council to fulfill his passion for service. Walker served for 34 years as the emergency medical service chief (over paramedics and EMTs, as well as assistant fire chief.

“I really enjoy serving,” Walker said.

Walker grew up in Rexburg after moving from Rigby at 12 years old. Over his 50 years in Rexburg he had developed a great love for the city. It is for that reason he is running for another term as a council member.

“I love Rexburg … and I love the people here,” Walker said. “I thought it would be good if I continued to serve.”

During his time on the council, the candidate has seen success as they worked on streets, using franchise fees to fund projects. He knows that there is more to be done, as Rexburg grows quickly, and the infrastructure has to keep up.

Walker is also proud of Rexburg’s water, which contains no additives. He hopes to continue to protect water.

“It’s right out of the well,” Walker said. “We are proud of that.”

The incumbent sees how local government has, and will continue to guide the growth that Rexburg is experiencing.

“Good things are happening. Rexburg is growing,” Walker said. “There are challenges but overall most of the things that have happened have been good.”

Although the candidate knows that Rexburg is no longer a small town, he believes in working to keep ‘that small town feeling’.

“We need to have progress with a purpose,” Walker said.

For Walker, progress with a purpose means steering growth, protecting neighborhoods and protecting people’s rights. He also hopes to strengthen the police and fire departments.

According to Walker, Rexburg’s citizen/law enforcement ratio is far below the national average with 20 firefighters and 30 police officers. The candidate hopes to strengthen the force in order to protect Rexburg.

Kelley McKamey

Kelley McKamey, a carpenter and business owner, believes in principles of transparency and communication between local government and citizens.

Although McKamey currently works as a carpenter, he has experience in a variety of fields, working as an administrator at Jefferson Montessori School and in the insurance industry. The candidate also served on the National Guard for six years after seeing many family members serve in the military. His service gave him a unique appreciation for service members and law enforcement.

McKamey has owned his own businesses for most of his adult life. This experience has taught him about the structure of business, and how government affects business, knowledge that the candidate believes is beneficial for a city council member.

Additionally, McKamey says that his studies of government and statesmanship at George Wythe College in Cedar City gave him a unique perspective on the role of government.

The candidate cites his understanding of correct principles as one of his greatest assets as a candidate. Additionally, he describes himself as having an assertive personality and being willing to ask tough questions.

“I can ask tough questions. And that’s one of the things that needs to be done,” McKamey said. “Our city council is the only legislative body in Rexburg. They need to be able to ask tough questions. … We need to be able to look at things from a principle based point of view.”

For McKamey, these principles include complete transparency in the processes of decisions made by city council, and complete honesty and integrity. He believes in explaining issues such as the budget, tax money and LIDs to the public in a way that citizens can understand before it impacts them.

“I think that people expect, at the very least in Rexburg, that their elected officials have impeccable honesty and integrity in all things,” McKamey said. “Additionally I believe that city council members need to actively listen to the citizens.”

To McKamey, active listening includes asking clarifying questions and seeking to understand the perspectives of the people.

When reflecting on actions he would take as a city council member, McKamey lists the wastewater plant and fixing the roads. According to the candidate, the wastewater plant is only partially functioning and that needs to change. Additionally, he says, growth that will impact parking and housing needs to be managed in a way that allows growth while protecting current residents.

Although the government has a role, McKamey believes that it shouldn’t be overburdensome.

“I’m excited to serve,” McKamey said. “I’m excited to work with the citizens and actively develop a relationship with them so they know they can trust that the elected officials in Rexburg listen and will respond.”

Colin Erickson

Colin Erickson, law enforcement officer and Rexburg resident of 30 years, loves Rexburg. The candidate chose to run for city council as a way to continue to serve the community he loves. While in Rexburg, Erickson has worked as a police officer for 29 years, and managed departments at Ricks College for 11.

“It has been a great place to raise our family, to raise our kids, ” Erickson said. “We are all in, being a part of this community and being part of the solutions.”

Erickson moved to Rexburg as a student at Rick’s college and has watched the city grow since. He loves how Rexburg gives the opportunity to receive an education and to live in a place with good values and where people care for each other.

A Colin Erickson sign is placed on a Rexburg curbside.
A Colin Erickson sign is placed on a Rexburg curbside. Photo credit: Elise Forbes

The candidate has served as a police lieutenant over the community policing division and animal shelter. He also ran budgets for those groups through the Police Department. He says this gave him experience on spending city money wisely.

“I feel like I have a good vision of the city,” Erickson said. “I would like to just be involved and be a helping hand … to move the city forward as we continue to have major growth.”

When he heard that Chris Mann was not planning on running for reelection, running for city council seemed like a natural way to continue to serve and do his part as a citizen. After working in public service for so many years, running for city council made sense to Erickson.

“I still want to serve, I still want to be part of the solution,” Erickson said. “I still want to be out there to do some things for the community.”

When considering the challenges that Rexburg faces, Erickson lists infrastructure and safety. He believes that infrastructure needs to be prepared for growth and maintained. The candidate is also concerned about keeping Rexburg safe and supporting first responders. This effort requires cooperation between citizens and law enforcement, which he has seen in Rexburg.

He also believes in smart growth, which he says can be accomplished as we picture how we want to see our city in the future.

“(We need to) look at how we want to picture our city in the future, for my grandkids, for other people’s kids,” Erickson said.

Erickson hopes to immerse himself in the community as a city councilor, and have open communication with the citizens.

“To be a part of the solution you’ve got to be able to listen,” Erickson said. “I want to be involved.”