Democrats in Blaine County opted for change on Tuesday, choosing to replace incumbent Commissioner Larry Schoen with a new nominee for the seat.
The 12-year veteran fell to county Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dick Fosbury in the Democratic primary to represent District 1 on the Blaine County Board of Commissioners. Backed by 70 percent of the Democratic vote, he’ll take on Republican Mick Halverson and Independent Debra Hall in the general election this November for a two-year term starting in January.
He cleared a major hurdle by beating Schoen, who has accrued a reputation for meticulousness during his four-term tenure.
“It was a pleasant surprise, but in the last couple days it was becoming evident that I had really strong community support,” Fosbury said. “In races all across the United States, we’ve seen a clear indication that 2018 is a year of change.”
Participation was high in Blaine County, according County Clerk JoLynn Drage; two precincts even ran out of Democratic ballots, ending the night using electronic touch-screen backups to log votes. The overall message was clear: Voters in Blaine, Twin Falls, Jerome and Cassia counties each ousted incumbent commissioners in the primary round. For Schoen, they decided that four terms was long enough.
“Twelve years is a good, long run in this community,” Schoen said. “There are some groups that have a beef against me—they may be small, but cumulatively, over the years, that adds up.
“The electorate is clearly agitated—just look at the rest of the Magic Valley. People are worked up, they want change. My opponent campaigned well on that message.”
If Fosbury has his way, Blaine County might not see a commissioner top Schoen’s run in the future. On Wednesday, he told the Mountain Express that, if elected, he would work to impose term limits on officials.
“I recognize the value of institutional knowledge, and I think that’s really important at the staff level,” Fosbury said. “But, at a leadership level, it’s important to see fresh faces … 12 years, I think that’s long enough.”
As a P&Z commissioner, Fosbury was looking to rise through the same ranks Schoen did prior to his election to the board in 2006. Though he’s never held elected office, he served as city engineer for both Ketchum and Sun Valley and held seats on various valley nonprofit boards. A civil engineer by trade, Fosbury is retired from his job at Galena Engineering, a company he founded.
But outside Blaine County, he’s most famous for what he did 50 years ago, winning gold in the 1968 Olympic high jump with his revolutionary technique, the Fosbury Flop. That led to careers in corporate speaking and coaching track—which, if elected, he said he’d step back from to focus on the commissioner job full-time.
Following Tuesday’s primary, he was confident he’ll get that call later this year.
“We have a certain demographic here in Blaine County, and I know what it is,” he said. “My opponent’s going to have a huge challenge because of the breakdown of the electorate, and because of my broad involvement in this community.”
Much of what will be done in the beginning of the two-year term is still in the hands of Schoen and the current board. Fosbury plans on watching the upcoming county budget talks closely in the coming months. And, for his part, Schoen will continue to work as he has over the past decade-plus.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I’ll be able to continue to do my job until January,” he said. “I’ve been really outspoken and straight with people from the start. Re-election is only one measure of success in this job, and for me it was never the primary one.
“I thought I would serve two more years—that was my goal. But Dick campaigned really hard, and he beat me. That’s that. I’ll move on. … I’ll leave office with my head held high. And, I’ll always care about this community.”
The general election is Nov. 6.