Mayoral campaign: Youth and energy are VanOrden's attributes

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

In a presidential debate in 1984, incumbent Ronald Reagan,73, said to his opponent, Walter Mondale, 56, that he would not make age an issue of that campaign, "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience."The room erupted in laughter and even Mondale smiled. Amonth later, Reagan was re-elected by one of the largest landslides in American history.
Now, in his race for Mayor of Blackfoot, Chase VanOrden, 28, intends to use his youth for positive and effectual change in the way the City governs and is governed. A business owner (SRS TV and Internet), a lifetime resident and a fourth-generation pedigree here, VanOrden promises to take off the gloves, roll up the sleeves and get the community back on its feet again.
"I am more than willing to get start on my first day," he said. "As a business person, I have seen the struggles of Blackfoot. When times are good, we succeed, when times are tough, they are tough on everyone. My motivation is to build a better and a stronger Blackfoot. From everything I've seen, there's a divide between the City and the people. The government wants to just lead instead of being a part of the community. Going back to Blackfoot's roots, we've always had a spirit of community and have worked together to solve our problems."
VanOrden, however, does not see that cooperation much any more.
"There is still a strong spirit here, but over the past few years, it seems to be lower than it's ever been," he said. "People do not go anywhere, and we do not bring in people from the outside other than the (Eastern Idaho State) Fair.It's difficult to see Blackfoot go down this route. We new ideas, new passion because that's what's going to make us great."
His criticisms of the current administration, led by Mayor Paul Loomis, including what he perceives as a lack of communication with her citizens. "One of the biggest problems I see, is that the current administration does not listen to the community," he claimed. "They have their plans, that's the way it's going to be and that's it. There's no debating with them, if you disagree, you're an enemy. That's the way it's run right now."
He also added that he has spoken to many business owners who have "fought with the mayor, fought with the administration; developers have fought with the city and everyone is at odds right now."
In other words, he said, the City leadership has their own ideas and is not willing to listen to anyone else. He brought up the recent issue of the proposed destruction of the water towers as an example, saying there were more than 1,000 people who signed petitions and many who attended the August City council meeting wanting to keep the two now-empty structures as a part of the town's history and heritage.
"We had an administration that basically looked us in the face and said they didn't care," he said. "What's most important about Blackfoot is our history. None of the candidates in this race do not have deep roots here, unless they married into them. They all moved from somewhere else. They want to make Blackfoot a representation of where they came from, instead of what it is. We're tearing down neighborhood parks while all across the country people are removing statues and changing our history. That's is what makes us special. We're fighting to preserve what makes us great."
And while he understands the past, he is not unaware that it's the future that will make a difference in this election and feels there is little to keep young people in this are. "That's very important to me," he said. "And one of the ways to do that is to clean up our City. To have a working swimming pool and places they can go and feel empowered so they do not go somewhere and see it's so much better than Blackfoot. They can come home to a clean city and say they want to be here. It's not that the youth WANTS to move away, it's just that they do not have a life in Blackfoot."
Cleaning the city, fixing the infrastructure,repairing the road and heightening the spirit of community. "When you have these things, when you have educated youth, that will bring in new businesses," he added. "Higher-paying jobs, not low-wage positions.We are going to bring higher-paying jobs here and that, in turn, will keep and bring young people to the community."
He also stated that as Mayor, he would be willing to work with developers for smart growth. "The youth of today are different. They are not going out and buying homes at 22-years old. They are willing to live in duplexes, townhouses and apartments — that are clean and family-friendly.That's why many of them are moving to Idaho Falls and Pocatello because there is little or no affordable housing here. We need to concentrate on cleaning up here and making it not only attractive to businesses, but for individuals and families, as well. We want to keep our small town feel, but we still want to grow."
He said that he doesn't just want factories here, there are certainly other options, but Blackfoot has the space for a variety of new businesses. "Right now, when a potential merchant comes into town, drives up and down the streets and talks to residents, they are not going to want to move somewhere that has a feel of gloom about it. They're going to wonder if this city is dying or coming back to life. We need to work to show these people we want them here that we are an attractive location with an educated workforce."
The proximity of a major four-year university (ISU) and a new community college in Idaho Falls will ensure the availability for the youth to be educated close to home. "We even have an older group of people who can take classes and enhance their opportunities, as well. But they are not always going to come to us. They (City representatives) are going to have to go out and make the case for bringing change to this city. The Mayor is the spearhead for the City of Blackfoot. The face of what we want here. I am more than willing to be that face. The problem is that we have current leadership that is retiring and then want to serve the community. They are running after a lifetime of work, but I am willing to start right now. We need to be more aggressive in attracting businesses and people. I am more than willing and able to lead this effort."
VanOrden, along with Loomis, and candidates Jim Thomas and Marc Carroll will face off in person at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center.