Of the four candidates vying to replace retiring Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas, one clearly stands out above the rest: Jarom Wagoner.
Wagoner has unparalleled experience among the candidates. He serves as a Caldwell City Council member, and he has previously served in the Idaho Legislature. He also worked as a senior planner, giving him particular insight into the operations of the city.
Nancolas has done a remarkable job leading the city over the last 24 years, spurring impressive growth and a revitalization of the city’s business community. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Since Wagoner has both worked under and alongside Nancolas, he has the working knowledge to make targeted improvements to the city’s operations.
Wagoner was also a reliably level-headed state lawmaker who won the admiration of a number of his colleagues. He would be an effective advocate for the city at the Capitol, an increasingly important part of the job, as the Legislature sinks its fingers ever deeper into the internal affairs of local government.
In an interview with the editorial board, Wagoner had the most practical, concrete ideas for improving the city, including simplifying city code, modernizing the city’s employment systems and improving employee morale and attracting further business development to the city. For example, Wagoner’s proposal to move more employees to working from home would make it possible for the city to realize major long-term savings on building acquisition and maintenance.
Wagoner also is the only candidate with a serious grasp on what it will take to build out affordable housing in Caldwell. He recognizes a truth that is essential for the future of the city: nearly everyone needs to live in an apartment at some stage in their life. So for the city to thrive, it needs to build apartments for young families and residents with low and moderate incomes.
While other candidates seemed wary of, or even opposed to, high-density development, Wagoner recognized a simple truth that will be vital for the city: Nearly everyone needs to live in an apartment at some point in their lives. The city will need a model of development that provides affordable housing for people of all income levels.
For these reasons, the board’s vote to endorse Wagoner was unanimous.
Chris Trakel, a retired Marine who is also running to replace Nancolas, repeatedly stated that he wanted the government out of the housing market when asked about affordable housing. But he also spoke in support of maintaining zoning for single-family homes, a rather significant government intervention in the housing market, without appearing to grasp the contradiction.
Candidate Nicole Hyland seemed to genuinely have the best interests of the city at heart. But she does not have experience comparable to Wagoner’s.
Candidate Jorge Arancivia did not respond to an invitation to interview with the editorial board. The Statesman will not endorse any candidate who does not interview with the board.
One other candidate bears mentioning.
It has been about a decade since John McGee’s car theft, DUI and disturbing the peace (a charge stemming from an incident of sexual harassment) convictions, for which he served jail time. We are not beyond forgiving past transgressions — if a person shows genuine remorse and can demonstrate that they have changed. At the very least, someone with such a past must show some commitment to transparency.
McGee did not even attempt to do this. Despite invitations from the editorial board to answer questions, about both his vision for Caldwell and his checkered past, McGee refused to participate. He has left us with no means to judge whether he is a changed man, or if electing him would pose a risk to those who are in a subordinate position to him. We do know he has abused such a position before.
Regardless, the editorial board found Wagoner to be highly qualified for this position. Perhaps voters have found the candidate who can serve the city for the next 24 years.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members J.J. Saldaña and Christy Perry.