Peter Long threw his hat in the electoral ring Monday, becoming the third hopeful to vie for one of two Teton County Board of County Commissioners seats up for election.
“For a long time the young people, the working families here in Jackson haven’t been represented, haven’t had the voice they should,” Long said in an interview with the News&Guide. “I’m running to represent those who are working hard, who are struggling to make ends meet, who are struggling to figure out how to pay their mortgage and their rent.”
Long’s announcement adds some heat to the race for the board. Chair Natalia D. Macker intends to seek another four years, and Wes Gardner, the owner of Teton Toys and a member of a number of public county boards, also plans to run.
With only two seats open, Long’s decision to jump in means that somebody will be out when the dust settles. It also means that the race is currently a three-way competition between a Democrat (Macker), an independent (Gardner) and a Republican (Long).
Long, 36, is the first to pick up an endorsement from a seated official.
“I’m supporting Peter,” Commissioner Mark Barron said. “I was stoked that he was interested.”
Long said he and his wife are in the “same boat” as the working people he hopes to represent. Though he’s a valley native, the race’s newest entrant said his family is figuring out whether they’ll be able to stay in the county long term.
Having grown up in Moran, Long left for college, and ended up working in Washington, D.C., for years afterward. He landed a job on the National Security Council under the Bush and, later, Obama administrations, and spent two years as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s executive assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
But after returning to Teton County in 2017, Long said, it took “a long time” for him and his wife to get their feet underneath them. Figuring out their careers, for one, was a challenge.
He now runs a “one-man shop” marketing and public relations consultancy. Long said said he and his wife wondered if they were kidding themselves about buying a home in Jackson Hole, where real estate prices are sky high.
“The hope of putting down roots here in Jackson is getting further and further out of reach,” Long said. “It’s becoming a tough place for the working class to make it here in Jackson.”
With the economic fallout from the coronavirus spreading throughout the valley, Long said he thinks that’s going to become “exponentially harder.”
A way to fix that, in his mind, is to look at ways to make the government more nimble, especially when considering Teton County’s ever-present bogeyman: housing. Long called finding a place to live “single-handedly the biggest challenge to being here.”
He hopes to address the issue by relying less on “rigid” ideologies like those he sees in the 2012 Jackson/Teton Comprehensive Plan.
While he thinks “it’s important to have that long-term vision,” he also thinks housing proposals could be evaluated on their individual merits.
“We tie our hands when we are so beholden to the comp plan,” Long said. “I think it’s important to have long-term vision and be working towards a community where we’re conserving and preserving our natural resources.”
But he doesn’t want doing so to get in the way of “our working class being able to live and work here.”
Both in addressing the economic calamity caused by the coronavirus and in day-to-day county operations, Long also thinks that more reliance could be placed on the business community and that business people should be more involved in policy.
“They’re the ones who live with a lot of the impacts of policy that’s written here,” Long said. “In terms of recovering from the situation we’re in now, small businesses are at the fore of it. They’re the ones creating jobs around here, creating opportunities to live and work here.”
And though Long is a Republican, he said he doesn’t want party to define him — or the race.
“I think we box ourselves in when we start labeling one another and start labeling ideas as Republican, Democratic, conservative, progressive,” Long said. “A good idea is a good idea.”