City, LPOSD candidates declared for Nov. 2023 election

Sandpoint mayor, three council seats and two trustee positions up for election

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

It’s not a presidential election year, but the November 2023 election will be a lively one locally, with a deep field of candidates for a number of high-profile city offices, as well as seats on school district boards and other taxing districts.

With two-term Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad declining to run for reelection, the top elected job in the city is up for grabs, drawing three candidates: current Sandpoint City Council President Kate McAlister, former Sandpoint City Planner Jeremy Grimm and Frytz Mor, who entered the North Idaho political scene in 2021 with an unsuccessful bid for Sandpoint City Council.

Kate McAlister. Courtesy photo.

The candidate filing period closed Sept. 8, and Bonner County Elections personnel have until Friday, Sept. 15 to finish processing the paperwork from office seekers, so the list as of Thursday, Sept. 14 is partial. 

However, the city of Sandpoint has posted the mayoral candidates, as well as those seeking election to three seats on the City Council that will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

According to the city’s website, there are six candidates vying for the council positions held by McAlister, Andy Groat and Deb Ruehle. Because of her mayoral run, McAlister is vacating her council seat and Groat is not running again for his seat.

Ruehle is seeking another term, while current Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commissioner Amelia Boyd is running for council, as well as Elle Susnis, who has served as chair of the Sandpoint Arts Commission. 

Also running for council is conservationist and retired educator Pam Duquette, who has served as a board member for the Selkirk Conservation Alliance; Kyle Schreiber, a marketing and business development professional and frequent commenter at council meetings; and Grant Simmons, who serves as vice president of client analytics at Kochava.

Sandpoint City Council seats are held at large, which means any resident can vote for any of the candidates, regardless of the voting precinct in which they reside.

In the Lake Pend Oreille School District, current Board of Trustees Chair Geraldine Lewis will seek reelection and three candidates have filed to fill the seat left vacant by Trustee Purley Decker, who will not run again: longtime local resident and retired business owner Rebecca Holland, active LPOSD meeting attendee and commenter Jennifer McKnight; and Scott Wood, who manages his family business Wood’s Crushing and Hauling and is a lifelong resident.

Sandpoint mayoral candidates McAlister and Grimm have already issued campaign announcements, with McAlister kicking off her run at an event Aug. 23 at fellow Councilor Justin Dick’s 113 Main restaurant.

McAlister wrote in her statement that she’s running because of the “huge growth” experienced by Sandpoint in recent years, and, “while that brings some benefits it also poses some serious challenges that I want to help the city meet.”

Among the issues listed on her campaign website (, McAlister highlighted “community conversations” geared toward finding solutions to meet the needs of all residents; “infrastructure improvements” targeted at water systems and roads; promoting Sandpoint businesses; supporting local education and workforce training; affordable housing “for all” based on public-private collaboration; and “common-sense solutions, not partisan or ideological convictions.”

A resident of Sandpoint for more than 30 years, McAlister serves as president and CEO of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce and has long been involved with Angels Over Sandpoint, the Forrest Bird Charter Schools and Kaniksu Community Health, among other organizations. She also served on the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency from 2013-2017.

“I want to do everything I can to keep us great and it starts, and ends [with] being fair to all our citizens,” she stated.

Grimm highlighted his work from 2007-2015 as Planning and Community Development director for the city, during which time he had a front row seat to the rapid changes brought to Sandpoint by growth and development.

Jeremy Grimm. Courtesy photo.

“It is this experience that fuels his drive to address the impacts of growth while preserving the unique character of our town, something that he argues doesn’t require a paid consultant to identify,” his campaign announcement stated.

Grimm currently helms Whiskey Rock Planning + Consulting, which works with local developers on environmental consulting, project management and strategic planning. Among his central goals as mayor would be to “strengthen the community by valuing and engaging citizen voices as well as those of our skilled employees in all aspects of local decision making.”

His campaign announcement took particular aim at the culture of City Hall, which referred to “the abysmally high rate of employee turnover — including six different land use planners in the past three years.”

“[C]ity Hall feels hostile and authoritarian, almost aloof to the concerts of the public,” he stated. “This must and will change under my leadership.”

He vowed to improve transparency at the city and work to diversify the local economy away from “an overdependence on tourism.”

“Under the current administration, our parks, facilities and public spaces have been developed or are planned to be developed into mega regional complexes or tourist attractions,” he stated. “It seems like we have lost our priorities and an understanding of who our parks should serve.” 

In addition to his past work with the city and current consultancy firm, Grimm served on the Sandpoint Urban Renewal and Panhandle Area Council boards, was appointed to then-Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Workforce Development Task Force in 2017, and currently serves as the Region 1 representative and vice chairman on the Idaho Economic Advisory Council, appointed by  Gov. Brad Little.

“Together, we can work towards building a stronger community that is more economically diverse, and celebrated by residences and businesses for the highest level of government service, access and transparency,” he stated.

Grimm’s campaign website is

Mor’s campaign had yet to issue an announcement as of press time, but the candidate should be familiar to voters after his run for a Sandpoint City Council seat in 2021. During that race, Mor emphasized economic diversification and, in a candidate’s forum hosted by the Sandpoint Reader, Keokee, KRFY 88.5 FM and the Selkirk Association of Realtors, argued in favor of incentivizing “hard skills” such as local food production to enable residents to transition from low-paying service work.

During his council campaign in 2021, Mor also opposed any form of taxation and characterized grants and public-private partnerships as “crony capitalism” that invites government to encroach on citizens’ lives.

A musician and self-described “ex-Hollywood guy who fled the West Coast because of its psychosis,” Mor spoke before numerous governmental bodies and political groups during the 2021 election season, which was marked by COVID-19 pandemic, advocating for “absolute resistance” to public health mandates, as he said during a town hall gathering in Coeur d’Alene, a video of which is posted to his campaign Facebook page — — which remains active but has yet to be updated to reflect his mayoral campaign. The website, to which the Facebook page links, was not functional as of press time. 

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