Eagle's Eye on its Next Mayor 

Eagle's mayoral race gets testy

Jim Weatherby, Idaho's elder statesman of all-things political, said if you're an election wonk like him, you need not look any further than Eagle.

"Thank goodness for Eagle, Idaho," said Weatherby, kicking off an Oct. 11 candidates forum sponsored by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce. "What more could you ask for? Three races and 10 candidates."

While two open seats on Eagle's City Council have attracted no fewer than eight contenders, most of the attention in the ever-growing city (population: 19,908) has focused on the race for mayor.

Eagle's last elected mayor, Phil Bandy, abruptly resigned in March 2010, citing communication frustrations and insufficient compensation. City Hall reeled for the better part of seven months until the City Council appointed Jim Reynolds, 72, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, to take over as mayor. One of the council members who voted for Reynolds was, ironically, Norm Semanko, who now wants to show Reynolds the door.

"We had a mayor under siege at that time, and we needed an acting mayor," said Semanko. "Yes, I voted for Jim Reynolds. He's been a good interim mayor. But this is about the next four years."

Semanko, 44, knows quite a bit about running a campaign, for himself or for anyone else, for that matter. He has been the chairman of the Idaho Republican Party since 2008, right about the same time he was elected to the Eagle City Council.

While Semanko takes a back seat to no one with his campaign prowess, Reynolds had zero political experience before taking over as Eagle's mayor.

"My friends said, 'You have to be crazy,'" Reynolds remembered. "But where others saw animosity, I saw a city in search of itself."

Reynolds said since he settled into Eagle's nest, the city staff now has a "pro-business approach, looking for new collaborative solutions."

Semanko begged to disagree.

"City Hall isn't business-friendly," said Semanko. "As a matter of fact, the City Council recently raised business fees over my objections. We have to repeal those fees as soon as possible. If we don't keep the businesses we have now, we'll have nothing."

Reynolds said the city's working relationships with businesses begins at the threshold of his City Hall office.

"And that door is always open," said Reynolds. "If it's ever closed, it's because someone else closed it."

The interim mayor said he's particularly encouraged by Eagle's post-recession growth.

"And our growth is going west; that's very positive. Businesses need to be on the edge of our city, rather than in the middle of it," said Reynolds. "We need the balance of a small-town atmosphere with significant growth."

Semanko said there's one place where Eagle needed no growth whatsoever: at City Hall.

"I'm for limited government," said Semanko. "We seem to end up spending a lot of time talking. There are too many meetings. I'm sick and tired of talking. We need to pick three or four things and get those things done."

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