Natalia D. Macker

Natalia D. Macker

Election Day is three week away. This week I focused on two more two county commissioner candidates: Democrat Natalia D. Macker, an incumbent, and Republican Peter Long.

Q: Many are concerned with the rate and extent of development, commercial and residential, in Jackson Hole. At what point would you agree that the development has exceeded a reasonable level?

PL: I am a firm believer that Teton County’s rugged beauty makes this place unique, but our community makes it extraordinary. We have not reached a tipping point where development has surpassed a sustainable level. In fact, the opposite. By kicking our challenges down the road and neglecting opportunities to create housing and diversify our economy, we have begun to push out our working class and close the door on future generations. We can balance growth and protect our natural resources and open space. It is not an either/or choice. It is a question of whether we will make Teton County a place where our working class can succeed and our children can one day call home.

NM: I’m interested in prioritizing stewardship of our public lands and support for our marginalized communities. More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to development, but doing nothing won’t allow our community to move forward. We have to keep striving for a healthy tension between ecosystem, economic growth and affordability.

Q: What is your greatest concern about Jackson Hole’s future?

PL: Very simply, that Teton County could become a place our working class and our children can no longer afford to call home. Sadly, that is the direction the status quo is taking us, and quickly. From generational families who are getting priced out to those who have been here a short time, the reality of saying “no” to housing opportunities and failing to address the rising costs of living are catching up with us. We are at a crossroads. This election will determine whether we right the ship or continue to dabble at the edges of our biggest challenges. So many of the answers are common sense: Zone more working-class neighborhoods that will create affordable housing and rental options; rebuild partnerships with our small businesses; stop treating taxpayers like an ATM; and address the barriers that make it difficult for working class families to live here. That is why I am running: to be a voice for our working class, to stand up for our small businesses and workers and to address our toughest issues head-on with common-sense solutions.

NM: Our growing economic disparity. I’m concerned we will become an exclusive community that has too high an entry bar economically and that we will lose our demographic diversity while failing to take care of our most vulnerable community members.

Q: On a more personable level, what is the greatest risk you have taken in your life so far?

PL: In 2002, I left the valley for college in Philadelphia (an opportunity I owe entirely to the generous support of our community and our outstanding public schools). I had hardly even left the valley. Going from my family’s ranch in Moran to West Philly was a culture shock, to say the least. I was terrified. I didn’t know anyone. I stood out in my Wranglers and cowboy boots. I got lost just trying to get to class. It was the best decision I made. The opportunity to experience other cultures firsthand, to learn from individuals with different backgrounds than mine, and to engage with ideas and opinions that challenged my thinking opened the door to a world I hadn’t experienced here in the valley. It allowed me to launch my career, take new challenges and even meet my wife. But had I known how difficult it would be to get back here to Teton County, I don’t know that I would have left. This has always been home to me. Yet during the short time I was away, a mindset of trying to shut out change and cling to the past began to close the door on our future. Unfortunately, I’m hardly alone. Many families that I grew up with have cashed out. Peers who would like to be here can’t. Young people who are working hard to be here are seeing the dream of owning a home slip further and further out of reach. All realities that my wife and I understand well, because we too struggle with them daily.

NM: Becoming a parent — high risk but also high reward!

Light the candles

Happy 97th birthday to my dear mother, Ruth Trout. She is a true Wyomingite, born in Evanston in 1923. Her mother was born in Evanston in 1891. Mom is the oldest resident at Legacy Lodge but is still young at heart. She is planning a party for her 100th.

Connie Owen would love to hear your stories. Call or email her at 734-9512 or connie_owen@msn.com.

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