For first time in a long time, Garden City will have a choice for mayor this election

·4 min read

John Evans hasn’t faced much competition in his 16 years as mayor — but that’ll change on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Evans will face Hannah Ball for the job, providing voters in Ada County’s smallest city the chance to vote on the first competitive mayoral race since Evans, 73, was first elected.

Ball, 36, grew up in Garden City and returned to the community five years ago. A local developer with a military background, she said felt elected officials in the city were not listening to concerns she and other residents raised about such issues as housing and crime.

Hannah Ball, left, is challenging longtime Garden City Mayor John Evans in this year’s election.
Hannah Ball, left, is challenging longtime Garden City Mayor John Evans in this year’s election.

“I think they (the council and mayor) have to acknowledge that we do have some topics that we as a community want to address,” Ball said.

One is the issue of tiny homes. Ball recently introduced a proposed code change that would allow for legal recognition of tiny homes, which aren’t allowed as permanent housing in Garden City.

Ball said, if elected, she would try to expedite the process for developers to build affordable homes by waiving certain fees.

“There is no incentive in Garden City’s code to encourage affordability,” she said.

She also highlighted a 2021 report that showed Garden City had a high rate of violent crime compared with many other cities in Idaho. She said the city has “the highest concentration of pedophiles and sex offenders anywhere in Idaho,” but did not provide evidence for this claim.

“We need leaders that are not soft on crime,” Ball said. “It’s annoying when your own community is always the seedy part of the valley.”

She said one solution would be to build more parks in Garden City to force sex offenders to move out of the area. Idaho law, however, does not forbid registered sex offenders from accessing public parks.

For Evans, Garden City has changed dramatically since he was elected as mayor in 2005. As with the rest of the Treasure Valley, it has seen a tremendous amount of growth and development. The city’s population increased by 9% to about 12,000 residents from 2010 to 2020, according to census data.

Evans, too, works as a developer and said most projects he works on are in Canyon County.

“There’s just been dramatic changes in every arena,” Evans said. “It’s kind of a change from the old gambling town that we started as.”

Asked why voters should elect him again, Evans said he’s been a consistent leader in the community. The city has balanced budgets, improved infrastructure and improved employee retention in city offices, he said.

“I’m kind of a ‘steady as she goes’ leader,” he said. “I operate on implementing a plan and the fruit of that is evident in the city now.”

For the future, Evans said the city needs to improve its flood prevention infrastructure. He said Garden City should partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the problem, since 74% of the city resides in a flood plain.

The competitiveness of the race is reflected in the large amount of money raised by both candidates. As of Tuesday, Ball had raised more than $15,000 and spent about $5,000. Evans has raised about $47,000, making him one of the top fundraisers in the state in 2021, although Evans did loan about $20,000 to his campaign, according to campaign finance reports.

This mayoral election also has another first — the involvement of political action committees.

The Ada County Republican Central Committee sent out mailers criticizing Ball and City Council candidates John McCrostie and Greta Mohr, and mailers encouraging residents to vote for Evans.

One mailer depicts McCrostie as a puppet master controlling Ball and Mohr, who are dressed as marionettes. Evans, a registered Republican, said he was “troubled” by the mailers and didn’t agree with their messaging.

“I would never approve of the mailers I’ve seen,” Evans said. “That’s not the way I do things.”

The Garden City mayor is a part-time position. In 2019, Evans earned $16.35 an hour in the role.

Early voting in Ada County started Oct. 18 and will last until this Friday, Oct. 29. Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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