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- American politician and city planner from Idaho
The growing city of Caldwell will have an new mayor for the first time in 24 years. Mayor Garret Nancolas served six terms, voters will have to decide who, among five candidates, will replace their longest-serving mayor.
Running are Jarom Wagoner and John McGee, both former state legislators turned Caldwell city councilmen; Nicole Hyland, a homemaker; Chris Trakel, a retired U.S. Marine; and Jorge Arancivia, who retired from the U.S. Air Force.
Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 2, but Canyon County is already preparing for a runoff election between the top two vote-getters.
Caldwell clarified its vague election ordinance after there was confusion in a 2019 city council race. Now, if one candidate doesn’t receive at least 50% of the vote in the general election, a runoff will be held Nov. 30 between the top two vote-getters. The 2019 council race was between McGee and two others. He won the later runoff against Evangeline Beechler.
Growth, public safety and property taxes are key issues. Trakel and Hyland say they support sustainable growth that pays for itself. Trakel’s major concern is ensuring that Caldwell’s infrastructure can keep up. Wagoner emphasized the importance of maintaining and following Caldwell’s a comprehensive plan to help guide planning decisions. McGee said he would work closely with the planning, police and fire departments to ensure the city is adding services to accommodate growth.
The four candidates hope to find ways to retain Caldwell’s police officers, which some say are leaving the city for higher paying jobs elsewhere. Wagoner and Trakel suggest raising officer pay.
All the candidates vowed to try to keep property taxes low. McGee and Wagoner said they would work with local legislators to find a solution to the rising residential property tax burden.
McGee is out-raising the others, according to campaign finance reports. He has raised $14,460, mostly from individuals. He received $1,000 donations from Stephens Electric, an electrical contractor in Nampa, McAlvan Companies LLC, a construction firm in Boise, and Lifetouch Clinical Services LLC, a home health care services company.
Trakel’s campaign raised $1,215, Wagoner’s $800, and Hyland’s $535 that she donated.
The mayor serves a four-year term. Nancolas makes $93,220 a year, according to the Idaho Statesman’s employee wage database.
Voters will also be selecting among candidates for three City Council seats, two school board seats, and cemetery and fire district commissions. The mayoral candidates, in alphabetical order:
Hyland, 38 , is new to politics and called herself the “underdog” in the mayor’s race. Even so, she said her experience as a Caldwell resident, taxpayer and mom will bring a wholesome perspective. She said her experience helps her relate to “people who are just trying to raise a family and survive.”
Hyland was recently employed at a local company doing customer service and administration. She had worked there for 20 years, she said, before the company had to close its doors because of COVID-19.
If elected Hyland said she would develop a the most sustainable and inexpensive plan for taxpayers to address growth.
“I just feel like right now our council is trying to play catch up (with growth), and it is more expensive,” Hyland said by phone. “So we have to have sustainable growth and so it is not at the expense of the taxpayers.”
McGee’s 2019 candidacy marked an effort at a political comeback.
He resigned from the state Senate in 2012 after he was charged with disturbing the peace amid accusations that he sexually harassed a female staffer. McGee told the Statesman that he thought “people in Caldwell have moved past those things from a decade ago.”
But some Caldwell residents have not. Haley Glenn, a nursing school student at Idaho State University and a former legislative page, spearheads Republicans Against Unethical Politicians, a political action committee that runs the StopJohnMcGee website says.
“He retained leadership and sexually disturbed the peace of a staffer,” Glenn said. “Time doesn’t absolve you of anything. He has not made amends, he has not done anything to show the people he is different.”
McGee ,48, told the Statesman that people in Caldwell have voted for him in two elections now, making it clear that people are focused on the future.
“In today’s day and age and with social media and cancel culture, these things will always be brought up, but I am focused on what is best for the future of Caldwell,” McGee previously told the Statesman.
Glenn was among a handful of people who picketed a Caldwell mayoral candidate forum on Wednesday, Oct. 20 to protest McGee’s candidacy. The forum was hosted by the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce. McGee said in a statement that did not attend the forum because of a conflict of interest with the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce.
McGee told the Statesman in an email that his top priorities if elected are to “continue to leverage assets like the Indian Creek Plaza to increase opportunities for families in our community.”
“I will continue to work with police and fire leaders on retaining our best employees.,” he said. “I will work to keep Caldwell’s tax rate low.”
Trakel, 40, has run previously for the council and the Legislature. A Republican precinct committeeman, he is a retired staff sergeant in the Marines.
He later opened a small woodworking business in Caldwell that he said has been put on hold because of COVID-19.
Trakel touts “sustainable growth” rather than “forced growth.” He said what the city has been doing over the last few years is forced growth, because the city needed to be revitalized quickly to accommodate for the growing population.
“We used urban renewal to create an environment to revitalize the city,” Trakel said. “The problem is if we continue with forced growth, we will have a lack of police, not being able to keep up with city services. Sustainable growth is more natural.”
Trakel said he would let the city’s current urban renewal district expire and would fight against the city’s recent plan for a northern urban renewal district.
“Caldwell is back — it has become a major hot spot,” Trakel said. “We are doing great, but we can’t keep pushing it on the taxpayers. Eventually that weight is too much.”
Trakel said he would hold monthly town halls with Caldwell residents to better understand their ideas and problems.
Wagoner, 44, had been planning to run for mayor all summer, but around the end of July, doctors found a tumor the size of a golf ball in his brain.
“Life changes in an instant,” Wagoner said by phone. “I have three young boys and a wife, so not only my life changed, but theirs.”
Wagoner’s surgery was scheduled for September, the last day to file for candidacy for the Nov. 2 election.
“I talked to my wife, and we looked at who was running, and if there was someone in there that we trusted, we thought we would not run,” Wagoner said. “But looking at the candidates, we didn’t feel good about where it looked like it would go for the mayor.”
Wagoner said his surgery “went amazing,” and that he is recovering well.
Wagoner said he is the best person for mayor because of his years of city and county planning experience.
Wagoner started as a planner for Canyon County in 2005, then worked for a year in private planning before becoming a transportation planner for the Ada County Highway District. While living in Caldwell, Wagoner applied to be the city’s planning director in 2013 and worked in that position for six years.
Wagoner said he understands the importance of long-term planning for growth and development.
“There has never been a better time for the city to have a planner as mayor,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner also hopes to expand the popularity of Indian Creek Plaza to the rest of downtown Caldwell. He wants to invest in improving the infrastructure through downtown to enhance area and encourage visitors.
Wagoner also wants to extend the Indian Creek Plaza path north to connect to a path the city has along the Boise River.
Wagoner filed for bankruptcy in 2010. He and his wife bought a three or four-acre property in 2007 to develop, just before the real-estate market crashed. He subdivided the property, but the bank would not allow him to sell the properties. The couple had to walk away from their investment.
Jorge Arancivia, who said he is an Air Force retiree, also appears on the ballot. He did not respond to the Statesman’s Voter Guide questionnaire, nor an interview request, and he has not filed any campaign-finance reports.