Two contenders have stepped up hoping to take over the Meridian mayoral seat Tammy de Weerd will vacate after this term.
De Weerd took the opportunity of her 16th State of the City address on Feb. 6 to announce that she wouldn’t be running for re-election in November.
The following day, Robert Simison, who has served as de Weerd’s chief of staff for the last 11 years, announced his candidacy, receiving endorsements from de Weerd, along with former City Council Members Charlie Rountree, Brad Hoaglun, David Zaremba and the late Keith Bird, who had passed away just a few days before.
The other candidate is Anne Little Roberts, who serves on the Meridian City Council and, with her husband, operates two businesses, one that aerates golf courses in the Pacific Northwest and an Amazon business that sells ink and toner. In addition, she served as the president of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce from 2011 until 2017.
The winner of the mayoral election would take over leadership of one of the fastest growing areas in the nation’s fastest growing state.
Each candidate brings a unique perspective on economic growth and expansion in Idaho’s second biggest city.
Simison emphasized two angles: First, what the city can do for businesses that want to move to Meridian or expand, such as processing their applications efficiently. “Time is money,” he said. “When they decide to move forward, we need to ensure they don’t have unnecessary delays in permits and processes.”
The other is how to make Meridian a business-friendly community by improving the transportation infrastructure and partnering with the state on incentives for businesses that want to grow in the community, Simison said.
Roberts praised downtown Meridian businesses for forming their own association, which makes it easier for the Chamber of Commerce to work with them as a group, she said.
“The biggest thing, coming from a Chamber background, is to help make sure businesses are informed and communicating with each other,” Roberts said.
She also wants to continue the city’s economic development activities, such as Ten Mile Crossing and other developments around the Ten Mile interchange.
One outstanding issue is that Roberts was fired from her position at the Chamber for what she said was no reason.
“Nobody had an answer other than the gentleman who terminated me,” she said. “Hopefully within the next few months it will be resolved.”
There is a court date set for June, but Roberts said she hopes it doesn’t get that far.
In her State of the City speech, de Weerd indicated that she felt she was leaving Meridian in a good position. The city added 2,203 jobs in 2018, for an overall increase of 34 percent over five years. In comparison, the state’s job growth was just under 16 percent, while the nation’s was 9 percent.
De Weerd also mentioned several major Meridian developments that occurred under her watch, including the sale of the former Farmstead property for development into a business and entertainment complex, and launch of Idaho’s first medical school, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Still to come is the development of Meridian’s Opportunity Zone, which encompasses part of Old Town Meridian. “Our Opportunity Zone is ready for investment, and we are ready to talk about it!” she said.
Meridian is currently upgrading its comprehensive plan, thanks to input from 4,500 people, de Weerd said. The primary areas of concern center on the impact of growth on transportation and schools, two areas that the city doesn’t control, she said.
In addition, the city currently has 50 public works projects underway, including expansion of the city’s sewer and water facilities, amounting to a total of $70 million. Meridian is also working on adding new parks and open space, as well as public art.
“Citizen feedback indicates a desire for less density and to preserve farmland and open space,” de Weerd said. “Our community survey results in 2017 showed 50 percent of respondents willing to support a levy for open space without even knowing a plan.”-