BURLEY – Merlin Smedley defeated the incumbent Mayor Terry Greenman in last month’s elections, earning a four year seat as the Mayor of Burley.
Voter turn-out was low for a mayoral election, with Greenman gathering 509 votes and Smedley receiving 705 votes. Smedley is a political newcomer having never before run for public office.
The Mayor-elect said that his decision to run for public office was the result of the impasse that the city and county were having over the contract for law enforcement services for the City of Burley. “I thought if I wasn’t happy with what was going on then I should do something about it, so I did. I ran,” he said.
“I have had a lot of people congratulate me,” Smedley said during an interview at Charlie’s Café in Burley. The interview was interrupted several times by people stopping by the table to shake his hand and speak with him, many just to say ‘good job’. One individual said it was about time that somebody from the other side of the tracks was elected to office, possibly referring to Smedley’s working class upbringing.
Smedley said that he started putting his lawn signs and posters up in late August after he discussed the possibilities with his wife, who had worked in the accounts payable department at the City of Burley for a number of years prior to her recent retirement. “She was very supportive, seeing how a big majority of the campaign money was coming out of my own pocket,” he said.
Smedley is a life-long Burley resident who worked for the Boise Cascade company for many years, and built the home that he lives in. He retired from the box factory and then started a successful general contracting and insulation business. “I know what the people in this area are facing,” he says, “I have faced them all myself at one point or another.”
Smedley said that he actually enjoyed the campaign. He went from door to door to meet people and find out what they were thinking. He states that he didn’t meet one person that was agitated to find him at their door, “even the people that told me point blank that they were going to vote for the other guy”. The Mayor-elect says that when he takes office the first little while will be a “sit back and observe so that I can establish what’s working and what isn’t. ”
The learning process has already begun for Smedley as he recently sat in on a conference call with Mark Mitton, the City Administrator, Doug Manning, the Economic Development Manager, and McCain Foods about some issues facing the company.
Smedley feels the community has got to find a way to develop jobs that keep people in the area from moving away. He refers to the recent loss of 156 jobs when Dutchman Trailers closed their Burley plant, a decision that, according to Dutchman Vice President Dave Thomas, was necessary to keep that business viable.
Smedley said it would be a great accomplishment to find a company, manufacturer or food processor to occupy the former Dutchman factory, (the old Del Monte plant for people that have been here for some time). The City owns the water rights in that facility, so to find someone to occupy it would be an economic plus for the City as well as for people looking for work.
The City’s struggle to come to terms with the County for law enforcement services is a touchy issue with the soon-to-be Mayor. “The City and County have got to get along. Burley and Cassia County is one in the same. We have to be able to get along. The possibilities of a Burley Police Department in lieu of Cassia County Sheriff’s Department will not happen any time soon. That isn’t a good idea,” said Smedley, “All that accomplishes is a double dip into the city and county revenues, and simply would boil down to a duplication of service. Not good.”
The attempts at extending bar hours got a resounding twos thumbs down from the soon-to-be head of the City. He states that any further discussion on that issue died on the floor of the City Council from lack of interest. “I am well-documented to be absolutely opposed to that action. The bars are opened long enough as it is, if people can’t get drunk during the current bar hours maybe they should just go home. The only thing extending the hours would accomplish is giving someone time for an extra alcoholic beverage or two. They may end up killing someone else or themselves,” said Smedley.
Terry Greenman has publically remained somewhat silent on the outcome of the election. “I haven’t talked to the Mayor personally,” Smedley says, “He didn’t call me to congratulate me, or pat me on the back, though I didn’t expect him to,” he said, “He did take an ad out in the paper to say what he had to say. I guess I didn’t expect anything more so I wasn’t disappointed.”
When asked about allowing the public to speak at City Council meetings Smedley said he is in favor of allowing people to have their say. Mayor Greenman was against this issue. “I think that is a good thing as long as people stay on subject and offer advice or even criticism, but they must be respectful and shouldn’t us the time to air their dirty laundry out in a public forum. That isn’t the time or the place,” he said.
Smedley states that no matter how hectic the office may become or how chaotic things may seem, he will always be able to go to bed at night and sleep comfortably. “I cannot be bought in any situation, and I am not for sale,” he said.
The Mayor–elect will be sworn in on Tuesday January 7, 2014 in Burley.