Five vying for council
By Benjamin Graham and Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
May 19, 2012
Incumbent Jackson town councilors will have to fend off challenges from at least three political newcomers if they want to hold their seats on the board.
Two candidates entered the field this week, Jim Genzer and Hailey Morton. They join fellow newcomer Phillip Cameron, who announced a week ago that he intended to run.
The three newcomers will face councilors Greg Miles and Mark Obringer for council seats. Morton and Cameron have yet to file for office but have announced their intention to run. Miles, Obringer and Genzer filed this week.
Mayor Mark Barron also filed for re-election. He is seeking his sixth term at the helm.
Genzer said his candidacy was born out of frustration with recent decisions by town councilors, including narrowing Redmond Street for new sidewalks and approval of a new land-use plan that calls for a majority of future development in the county to be within town limits.
“I’ve been frustrated with things that have been happening, and I thought maybe it’s time for me to do something about it,” the 66-year-old said.
The longtime insurance agent said the new Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan has the potential to “destroy Jackson.” Genzer wants to force the plan to a public vote and, ultimately, defeat it.
"The comp plan itself is an absolute disaster for Jackson,” he said Thursday.
Genzer does not believe the main goal of the land-use document — to shift at least 60 percent of new residential development into already developed areas — is realistic.
“I don’t believe it’s realistic or fair to the town, and yet councilmen and the mayor voted 100 percent in favor of it,” he said. “I’m really disappointed in that.”
Genzer also wants to prevent councilors from eliminating more parking or narrowing any more streets. He pointed to the recent reconstruction of Redmond Street as a design mistake he would have fought.
“We’ve got to stop the redevelopment of our streets and parking, so our citizens have a place to park,” he said. “We don’t need little green spots or bulb outs. We need to be practical and realistic.”
Genzer said he wants to preserve Jackson’s “western heritage.” One way of doing that, he said, is to prevent too much development being jammed into town to satisfy a goal to house 65 percent of the county’s workforce locally and absorb development from the county. He wants some development in the unincorporated parts of the county.
“I’m not antigrowth, I believe we need to have growth,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re going to have smart growth.”
Genzer has lived in the valley for nearly 40 years. He has volunteered with the Boy Scouts and 4-H. He is a former Teton County School District No. 1 board member.
Genzer joined a lawsuit filed against the town by Save Historic Jackson Hole. The legal challenge sought to overturn the town’s initial approval of a massive hotel redevelopment project on Broadway. The developer eventually withdrew plans for the project.
Morton decided to run because she believes a young, native female voice is needed on the town council.
“I want to focus on attracting young people to see Jackson as a viable community to live in and raise their families,” said Morton, who will turn 27 in November.
She acknowledges the contributions tourism and retail make to Jackson, but would like to promote other career options for young people. Morton added that her experience with startup businesses makes her a good candidate.
Her parents, Case and Amy, were the owners of the Sundance Inn, which they ran from 1987 to 2008. Throughout her childhood, Morton said she was able to learn the ins and outs of the hospitality industry by helping her parents.
“I did everything from cleaning rooms to eventually managing the front desk,” Morton said.
After graduating from Jackson Hole High School in 2004, Morton studied political science and Spanish at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, Morton opted to stay in D.C. to work as a marketing manager for a startup wine company.
She returned to Jackson in 2010 because she missed “the outdoors and the small community.” She is now the manager of the wine department at the Jackson Whole Grocer and is also assisting her parents with their new business, the Inn on the Creek.
"My commitment to this community and lifelong experiences of growing up and working here give me the motivation and dedication asked of a town council member,” Morton said.
Barron, who stands for re-election every two years, is seeking his sixth term as mayor of Jackson.
In 2010, Barron beat challenger Franz Camenzind by 689 votes. Barron won 61 percent of votes cast in that election.
Miles and Obringer last ran for election in 2008. They beat challengers Louise Lasley and Abe Tabatabai. Miles, who received the most votes, garnered 28 percent of the tally. Obringer received 27 percent. Lasley, who received the next highest number of votes, took 23 percent.
Miles said he intends to run again because he wants to be a part of guiding the development taking place in town under the new comprehensive plan.
“I’m really excited that other people are running, that young people are running and throwing in their hat,” Miles said. “It’s great community dialogue, and we can all learn from that process.”
Obringer could not be reached for comment.
Cameron, the third announced challenger, is director of the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Energy Coalition. He is also a member of Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited board, the executive committee of the Murie Center, and the country’s Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling Advisory Board.
Candidates have until June 1 to file. A primary election Aug. 21 will cut the council field to four, from which two will be elected Nov. 6.