Friday, September 28, 2012

Austin Crofts heads commissioner list

Governor to pick from 3 names


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Mary Austin Crofts

Former Blaine County Recreation District Executive Director Mary Austin Crofts will likely be the next Blaine County commissioner, given that she was named the Blaine County Democrats’ first choice after a lengthy interview process Tuesday night.  

Crofts, along with financial and accounting consultant Greg Travelstead and Shorty’s Diner owner Jacob Greenberg, will be submitted to Gov. Butch Otter as choices for the seat to be vacated by Commissioner Tom Bowman at the end of next week. Otter will pick from among the three, but Crofts has been named as the Blaine County Democrats’ first choice.

Each of the eight candidates was given a chance to be interviewed by eight of the nine Democratic precinct captains during a candidate forum Tuesday. One captain was absent, but submitted her vote in advance.

All the candidates gave a three-minute introductory speech in front of an overflow crowd at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey, each talking about why they wanted to become county commissioner and how their past experiences have prepared them for the role.

Crofts spoke last, both in speeches and during the interviews, and focused mainly on how she could “make a difference” and bring the community together for positive change. She said her previous experience managing the Blaine County Recreation District—completing projects such as the Wood River Trails System, the Harriman Trail, the North Valley Trails at Galena, Galena Lodge and others—as well as serving as executive director of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival has given her the knowledge necessary to manage the county.

“I feel like my whole career has brought me to a place where I can do this,” she said. “I really do think I can make a difference.”

Crofts admitted there were issues she was not quite up to speed on, such as the airport, but said she has been attending meetings and meeting with county officials and that her learning curve would not be steep.

“I am a quick study, and the basic tenants of making good decisions are all the same,” she said, adding that if she doesn’t know something, “I know where to go to get the answers.”

Crofts said she has been “doing my homework” and that there is still much to do. Still, she said she is ready to make decisions on issues such as senior care, the airport and infrastructure funding while working to ensure that the county’s myriad economic development and marketing organizations and the local governments are working together for a common purpose.

“That really would be a wonderful thing, wouldn’t it?” she told the precinct captains present.

Crofts is the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate, but state statute requires that three names be submitted to the governor for consideration. The party’s second choice was Travelstead, who said his extensive experience in corporate finance and nine-year history of community involvement—as well as his strong interest in land use and development—make him an ideal candidate.

“I have no illusions that I can make you all blissfully happy with county government,” he said, but added that he thinks he can make “most people moderately happy most of the time.”

Travelstead said that if appointed, he plans to balance private property rights with resource conservation and to listen to all sides on issues such as senior care and airport solutions.

Greenberg, who garnered 26 letters of support from the community and was voted the party’s third choice, said he could offer “balance” to the board as a small business owner. Greenberg said he has been a financial consultant for 30 years as well, and that that experience has given him the skills necessary to deal with the complex budgets the board must manage.

Greenberg also pointed out that he has already met with elected leaders, including both commissioners, District 25 state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey and the mayors of Ketchum and Hailey.

“I have attended enough commissioners meetings that I feel I have squatters rights to the position,” he said. “I’m up to speed on all hot-button issues and will be ready to make decisions the first day on the job.”

   Greenberg said he felt the airport improvement and replacement process was “moving in the right direction,” and that the county should work to bring more events to the valley, which in turn would bring more visitors. When asked in his interview, he said he would commit fully to the job of commissioner.

The three names will be submitted to Otter on Monday, Oct. 8, after Bowman’s resignation takes effect. The governor will have 15 days to appoint Bowman’s replacement.


Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

 




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