Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pocatello's Mayor Chase

As d2 said yesterday, "[Mayor Roger] Chase is to Pocatello what Bieter has been to Boise - a progressive wonk's dream: good for business, better for quality of life issues." Not only is Roger Chase those things, he's an all around nice guy and one that has served this town well. And come January he will no longer be mayor of Pocatello. It's one of the great political upsets of Super Tuesday.

The 26% of registered Pocatelloans who turned out to vote yesterday voted in favor of political newcomer Brian Blad. Blad defeated Mayor Chase by a margin of 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent (or 3,792 votes to 3,417). Today's headline in the Idaho State Journal reflects part of the story here in Pocatello, "Underdog Blad defeats two-term mayor," but fails to capture the whole story. As Brian Blad stated last night, Roger Chase is a "political icon" in this town and those of us who have appreciated his service and supported him over the years are shocked.

Since I first heard the election results on the radio this morning, I've been trying to remember when it was I first met Mayor Chase. It seems like I've known him forever, which I suspect is how a lot of people around here feel. Roger Chase is the kind of guy that when you're talking to him you feel like you've known him forever. Roger Chase grew up here, he has raised his family here and he has made Pocatello a great place for hundreds of families to raise their kids.

Chase has been a true advocate for Idaho State University, not just for the business-end, though he has been very supportive of Pocatello's largest employer, but on a more personal level as a former ASISU Student Body President who truly cares about the student population here. In fact, when I ran for the ASISU Senate in 2006, Mayor Chase donated twenty or so of his campaign signs to my own campaign, allowing me to paint over them and use them as I needed to ensure my own election. I'd like to think my campaign success had little to do with my signs, but the mayor's willingness to help me out with my campaign didn't go unnoticed.

Mayor Chase has a long history of accomplishments in this town, the least of which are the jobs he has brought to the Gate City. Big box stores are a successful part of Pocatello's history, but there are other accomplishments and ongoing projects that Mayor Chase has been quite involved with. There are green policies in effect today that would be beneficial to the community in the long term. Hopefully the progressive members of the city council will carry out the goals and policies Chase implemented. And there are completed projects all through town that stand as a testament to Chase's service and follow-through. One of those projects is the Bright Tomorrows facility near my home that was completed on the mayor's watch and with his support. Bright Tomorrows is a fabulous facility and speaks well to the entire notion of community and what it means. Pocatello and Chubbuck truly came together to build the facility and Mayor Chase was there every step of the way.

Because of my own health, my daily activities are extremely limited and I no longer have much interaction with the local Democrats, but the last time Mayor Chase ran (for re-election), I was out there going door-to-door for him as well as Councilmen Gary Moore and Richard Stallings. Even when we were out doing lit drops, it was amazing how many people we encountered that had stories about their interactions with Mayor Chase and how he had impacted their lives. The mayor has had plenty of opportunity to do so, he has not only been a two-term mayor, he served two terms on the Pocatello City Council, and three terms in the Idaho House of Representatives.

I genuinely hope that Mayor Chase has greater political aspirations, even though I know his presence will be felt in this town for a long time to come.

How a relatively unknown small business owner just unseated a fairly popular and extremely effective mayor eludes me. Whatever the reason, Pocatello voters may live to regret what they did yesterday.

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