At 28, he may be the youngest mayor in Coeur d’Alene history, yet one day after unseating an incumbent by a whisker, Steve Judy already was speaking like a seasoned pro.
He talked Wednesday about “bringing folks together” and “reaching consensus.” He suggested “public-private partnerships” as the answer to a handful of Lake City problems. He announced his first task in January would be to hold an “agenda-setting meeting” to establish “goals and objectives.”
Judy still is short on specifics about what he hopes to accomplish as Coeur d’Alene mayor, but he is long on energy, enthusiasm and support from area businesses - traits he admits may have given him the edge in Tuesday’s election.
Judy defeated one-term Mayor Al Hassell by 67 votes after a three-week blizzard of a campaign. He out-spent Hassell at least 13-to-1, shelling out close to $15,000.
“We worked really hard,” an elated Judy said in an interview Wednesday. “We tried to touch as many people as we could. We worked a database of 5,600 voters who had voted in the last two elections. We spent three weeks meeting people five hours a day and eight hours a day on weekends.
“But you just never know,” he said.
When early returns showed him 55 votes behind, Judy’s nerves tightened. When a later lead slipped by 30 votes, his throat clenched.
Now that the race is over, however, Judy wants to “work together” to tackle city problems.
The former director of a business group that once blasted city employees’ benefits package as too lucrative, Judy hopes to make the city more “user-friendly.”
The leader of a city employees bargaining group says she’s ready to help.
“We’ll do everything that we can to make sure his four years of service are the best they can be,” said Paula Payne of the Lake City Employees Union, which backed Hassell’s campaign.
While Judy admitted that as executive director for Concerned Businesses of North Idaho he did much of his negotiating in private, he said that as mayor, he will be more accessible.
“My job as a public person is my job,” he said. “I’m accountable. Every day I will look in the mirror and say ‘I’ve done my best for Coeur d’Alene today.”’
But Hassell, who served eight years on the City Council before being elected mayor, said he fears the new mayor and council will cater more to business interests.
“I expect to see less of a balance between the business special interests and neighborhood groups,” he said. “I think I provided a good balance in that area.”
On other issues, Judy said he’d consider using some tax dollars to help buy the disputed Sanders Beach. He’d like to create a tax-supported fund to match dollars that residents can drum up from private foundations to buy the beach.
Judy was vague on his ideas for revitalizing downtown Coeur d’Alene. He said he could support keeping McEuen Field green, but also thinks downtown needs more development that draws locals.
He said he’d consider relocating the city parks and recreation center or its parking lot to make room for additional development.
Asked to choose between retaining the ball fields or building a library - as tourism magnate Duane Hagadone proposed in February - Judy balked.
“I don’t see why we have to make that choice,” he said.
Judy also said he hoped to find a way, possibly through the private sector, of providing kids with a community activity center. He said too many adults he spoke with avoid downtown because teenagers loiter along Sherman Avenue in the evening.
“I told them the kids will go away if the parents started hanging out downtown, but we have to give them a place to go,” Judy said.
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