City of Idaho Falls
Rebecca Casper always thought of herself as someone who would work behind the scenes in politics, doing research, supporting and advising. But within one five-day period in 2013, she was approached three different times by people who wanted her to run for mayor.
The third time she was asked, Casper had been expecting the two attorneys across the table to ask her to run for city council, she recalled. She had already decided that she couldn’t, because a part-time position wouldn’t pay enough.
But to her surprise, the two attorneys joined in on the chorus enjoining her to run.
“My jaw kind of dropped,” she said. “I told them I had not served on the city council, I don’t have that background.”
But the group kept talking, and Casper went home to ask her four kids if she had their support. They were behind her 100%, and in 2014, she took the helm of the biggest city in Eastern Idaho.
“It was just an incredible journey — I have loved every moment of it,” she said.
In her time as mayor, Idaho Falls residents voted in favor of creating the College of Eastern Idaho (CEI), thereby bringing the first community college to the area.
“It turned out really well,” she said. “That was something that the city needed and I’m excited the voters felt that way too.”
Casper is also proud of the community review boards she put in place to analyze each city department to look at mission, programs, structure, what was going well and how it could improve, she said.
Most recently, Casper kicked off the CUSP Initiative (Connecting Us — Sustaining Progress), another community review board. This group has been tasked with looking at the community as a whole to find out what the city can do to serve and build in ways no one has thought of before.
Other major initiatives have included the building of a law enforcement complex and plans for a small nuclear reactor which, when built, will mean Idaho Falls will never have to purchase electricity from any other entity.
“There are not many community issues that she is not involved with and if there is a community project that has helped improve our city, you can be assured that it has her name on it somewhere,” wrote Bud A. Cranor, a city spokesman, in a letter of recommendation.
Prior to her time as mayor, Casper taught political science at BYU-Idaho after working as a research associate with the prestigious Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and a doctorate degree from U.C. Berkeley.
Casper owes much of her success to her own opportunities for higher education and to her parents, who blessed her with the security of always knowing she was loved. That security fuels her drive and has allowed her to take chances and do big things, she said.
“I’ve always been that annoying girl who raised her hand, who stepped forward, who wanted to lead.”