Season’s greetings Sandpoint residents!

By Sandpoint Mayor Jeremy Grimm
Reader Contributor

In the coming days, many of you will be setting resolutions for the new year, reflecting on the past with gratitude, giving thought, and setting intentions and hope for the year ahead. In the blink of an eye, most reading this will settle back into the regular routines and patterns of daily Sandpoint life next week. For me, this will not be the case. This Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, I am humbled to be sworn in as mayor of Sandpoint. I am grateful for your time as I share my observations, concerns and hopes for the next four years.

Jeremy Grimm. Courtesy photo.

Observations: I have had the good fortune to observe and work for seven different mayors. As can be imagined, each brought a distinctive skill set, personality and approach to the job, which is to serve as CEO of the city. Beyond the mundane task of preparing agendas, running meetings, presenting the annual budget and overseeing the day-to-day operations of City Hall, one of the most important abilities is to lead and facilitate — not dictate or dominate — discussions of the City Council. 

I have observed mayors who at times have become frustrated, cynical and lost their cool; but, likewise, some have displayed tremendous grace, patience and calm in their words and deeds. The position can be stressful, and at times the mayor may have more detail, insight and information on a subject item than others, leading to a belief that they “know best.” As my first pledge, I mark that I will always do my best to lead with an open mind and foster respectful commentary that considers all viewpoints and new ideas, whether from staff, council members, city residents or nonresident business owners. 

Every decision made by the city has a cause and an effect. We need to work together, listen and ensure that our actions fully consider the impacts that decisions have on our residents, taxpayers, businesses and the environment.

Concerns: I am deeply concerned that in the past five years, Sandpoint has invested significant time, treasure and effort to prepare and adopt various plans (transportation; utility; arts, culture and historic preservation; parks and recreation; a downtown waterfront conceptual study; and more), yet none have been guided by the community as a whole through the lens of the Comprehensive Plan.

This is akin to trying to row a round raft with paddlers on its edges across the lake (it will spin in circles and be taken in whatever direction the wind blows). 

These plans may perfectly reflect residents’ goals, their vision and desired future state of the city, and without doubt will (if enacted) result in the expenditure of millions of dollars on projects that will alter what we know as Sandpoint today. I contend that recent master planning documents prepared by the city have occurred during the COVID pandemic period, when public engagement was difficult at best. Furthermore, how did the consultants who drafted them know the proper scale and capacity of roads or utilities or where we need new parks when we haven’t yet set the vision for commercial or residential housing density that come out of the Comprehensive Plan? 

Without the consideration and adoption first of a Comprehensive Plan, we lack the unified vision of where, what type, intensity and how our residents desire to see growth or changes occur in Sandpoint. As a result, our recent master plans may not be well aligned with the desires and vision of our residents.

My second pledge is to work with the City Council as we walk through the draft Comprehensive Plan, chapter-by-chapter, and finally adopt this most important document. The vision and actions that lead us to our future state are not to be set by the mayor, an individual council member, planner, administrator or a consultant. Rather, it is the vision expressed through the Comprehensive Plan that guides elected officials and provides legitimacy for our future actions — to implement the will of the people.

Hopes: My hopes are simple and based on the key foundations of my campaign. I hope that working with the City Council we can reevaluate the city administrator position and the organizational structure at City Hall. Consolidating administrative authority in the hands of a single unelected individual appears to have not sat well with residents. 

I hope to focus spending on our critical infrastructure — boring but necessary things that make towns run, like streets and sidewalks; replacement of our WWII-era wastewater treatment plant; the water transmission system; and, most important, maintaining what we have before building new flashy projects. 

I hope to put residents first by reactivating our citizen committees. I hope to help diversify the Sandpoint economy away from tourism — more and better year-round jobs. And finally, I hope for a unifying, healthy and prosperous new year for Sandpoint.

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