The sheep on Main Street, the aspen trees going green to gold and Mickey Garcia’s name on the ballot in November—when it comes to fall in Ketchum, those things are as close to locks as there are in life.
Next month, the 75-year-old independent will take on incumbent Democrat Angenie McCleary for the northern district’s seat on the Board of County Commissioners, the 13th—or maybe 14th?—time he’s sought elected office. At this point, he’s lost count.
One thing’s for sure: He’s not in it for the money. Garcia’s biggest qualm with county government? The $84,000 salary it pays its leaders.
“You’ve all been duped, by liberals and liberal causes,” said Garcia, who self-identifies as a liberal, though with his regular cries against government overreach, libertarian might be more accurate. “In my opinion, the voters should forget about everything else, and elect two commissioners who will cut their own salaries to $35,000.”
That’s the main reason he’s challenging McCleary as an independent, and he’s crafting his own ideology along the way. In fact, in conversation Garcia is often so critical of government and its servants that you have to wonder why he’d want to join their ranks.
“Because I’m so outspoken, people don’t know what to think,” he said. “Well, they don’t have to fear me. I’ve always voted Democrat, except when I run against one myself. But this two-party system sucks.”
Disrupting it—and the practices that he said have “buffaloed” so many of his peers—has become something of Garcia’s later life’s work. Considering where Blaine County stands on many issues—that is, left of center—his views are honestly disruptive.
The first thing he’ll likely tell you is that he doesn’t believe mankind contributes to climate change, though a consensus of climate scientists would disagree.
“Carbon dioxide? That’s plant food,” he said, adding his view that the planet is cooling, deepening a pre-existing ice age. “The Earth is in a natural cycle, and man has nothing to do with it.”
(That’s not what scientists say. The overwhelming opinion among international scientific organizations is that mankind has contributed to climate change, and that emissions of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, are the main reason why.)
It’s no surprise, then, that Garcia believes in fossil fuels, and says shifts toward renewable energy, spurred in part by policy prescriptions, are “driving people into energy poverty.”
It’s part of why he “100 percent” supports approving Idaho Power’s prospective redundant transmission line up and running through the Wood River Valley “without delay.”
“When we and all the tourists we’re trying to get up here are freezing our butts off in a long-term power outage, that won’t sit well with anybody,” he said.
But the former wildland firefighter also believes in following environmental regulations already in place.
He also wants to increase spending on “our crumbling” roads and bridges.
He supports Proposition 2, which would expand Medicaid in Idaho, going so far as calling health care a “human right.”
And his scathing critique of his own generation—especially when it comes to housing—jerks left of even his Democratic opponent.
“The baby boomers have been so damn selfish, they won’t let anyone else get a foothold,” he said. “We need the millennials here, and they need a place to live.”
Garcia himself has lived here for 30 years, having moved to the valley in 1985 after finishing a forestry degree at the University of Montana in Missoula.
In his career, he’s fought fires and, in the 1960s, served two volunteer tours in the Vietnam War. Since 2001, he’s run for Ketchum mayor, City Council and County Commission on multiple occasions.
And, as always, no matter how far he gets in the polls, he’ll keep running.
“It’s my duty,” he said.