North Idaho's Best Elected Official
Steve Widmyer barely had a chance to plop down in the Coeur d'Alene mayoral seat — his very first foray into politics — before Inlander readers voted him North Idaho's Best Elected Official.
Maybe, like Barack Obama's 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, it's best to consider it an aspirational award, for what Widmyer could accomplish. Or maybe it's that, even though he's only been at the helm for two months, the city already feels less tense. "My campaign theme was bringing people together," Widmyer says. "And I think we're making progress there."
A year ago, an Inlander news report described how the Coeur d'Alene City Council had descended into ugliness — with City Attorney Mike Gridley calling Councilman Steve Adams an "ignorant shit," and Adams threatening to file an ethics complaint. As Widmyer ran his campaign last spring, Coeur d'Alene was fighting the same battle it had fought for two years, over the way the city was handling McEuen Field.
But ever since he walloped his opponent, who was a fiery critic of the city's direction, the rancor has subsided. It's almost like Widmyer, a real-estate businessman free from McEuen Field baggage, has found Coeur d'Alene's reset button.
"We haven't had any contentious meetings," Widmyer says. "I think that people want to see Coeur d'Alene move forward in a positive direction." In fact, during four meetings he's been a part of, when it came time to open up for public comment, nobody spoke.
He prides himself on his open-door policy, where anyone can swing by with questions or concerns. "Any of the council people can stop by my office and chat," Widmyer says. He says he has a "pretty good relationship," even with the council members who backed his opponent.
Coeur d'Alene residents have emailed him with complaints about traffic, speeding and snowplows. And since the city is the quarter the size of Spokane, "I can personally respond to any of the citizens," he says.
He's got at least four years left responding to those concerns, of sitting down with fellow council members, of debating Coeur d'Alene's future. And in the meantime, there's a controversial field to finally open. There's a new police chief who needs to be appointed. There are companies to woo, neighborhoods to invest in, an educational corridor to improve. There's a city to run.