Halfway through his four-year term as Sun Valley mayor, Dewayne Briscoe has worked to restore faith in a city government and City Council that faced numerous challenges, both politically and legally.
After Briscoe took office, an audit of the city alleged numerous problems at City Hall under the previous administration, including lax accounting and favoritism.
“There was a major division within the city staff and loyalties to the previous administration,” Briscoe said. “I also found there to be a relative disorganization of the city in its functioning. I believe I’ve helped correct it and reorganized the city’s government to function in a more efficient and compliant way.”
Briscoe said after taking office, he wanted to hire employees who were well-educated and could multi-task effectively. During his tenure as mayor, he has replaced several employees, including the city’s treasurer, clerk and receptionist, along with the chiefs of both the fire and police departments.
One of the most important long-term goals for Briscoe as mayor has been strengthening the city’s Fire Department. He said that he’s spent a great deal of time working on improving the department after the city received an outside report that said the department was stagnant and had several areas needing improvement.
“We have added a training office, fire chief, assistant fire chief and added a number of volunteer firefighters,” Briscoe said. “Two years ago, Ketchum would often respond first to fires in Sun Valley. This past year, Sun Valley has always responded first.”
“We are prevailing in these lawsuits one by one by one as hearings are held.”
Sun Valley mayor
As Briscoe heads into the second half of his term in office, he will also continue to deal with a series of lawsuits against the city that former City Administrator Sharon Hammer and her husband, Jim Donoval, have filed.
Briscoe individually was dropped recently from a civil suit that also names the city, and said he will have to spend a substantial amount of time going back and forth between Sun Valley and Boise to handle a federal suit he is named in. He said the city has only had to pay about $40,000 in legal fees because all but two of the cases are insured under the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program.
“We are prevailing in these lawsuits one by one by one as hearings are held,” he said. “I expect that we’ll keep prevailing. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs appeal everything they lose to the Idaho Supreme Court.”
With residents Peter Hendricks and Keith Saks set to become new council members in January, Briscoe said he believes the new City Council will be effective.
“The new council will once again have intelligent and educated people,” he said. “I do see a division between the council continuing both ideologically and politically. I think I’ll have to break a lot of ties in the best interest of the city.”
The mayor said he thinks there may be divisions on the council about funding nonprofit groups and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, versus allocating money for roads and infrastructure instead. However, he said that with Saks’ background as a professional mediator, he hopes there will be better consensus-building on the council.
“I don’t want to go through two years of having to break more ties, because it creates animosity and dissension,” Briscoe said. “I hope the council will accommodate and compromise in the best interest of the city.”
Eric Avissar: email@example.com