Steve Anthony, the former longtime Coeur d’Alene city parks director who relocated to Post Falls when he retired, won a six-way race for an open seat on the Post Falls City Council by just seven votes.
“It was a nail-biter,” Anthony said Wednesday morning.
Running barely behind him was Bobby Wilhelm, an ex-con and former drug dealer who’s now clean and sober and whose family has long owned a local bar, Bob’s 21 Club.
Two-thirds of the way through vote-counting on Tuesday night, Wilhelm was narrowly ahead. “I’m surprised I’m doing decent,” he said at the time. “I just have a home-court advantage for the minute. You know, these other guys, they’re the foreigners, but they’re the ones with the experience. So we’ll see how this rolls.”
Explosive growth in the North Idaho city drove interest in the race for the open seat. Wilhelm was the most stridently anti-growth candidate among the group, after becoming incensed over a development proposed near his home. He’s the author of the memoir “A True Story: Bobby Convict, School of Hard Knocks.”
Post Falls had fewer than 2,000 residents in 1960; it has roughly 33,000 today, and the population is projected to skyrocket to 91,000 by 2035.
Campaigning door to door, Anthony said he didn’t understand his rival’s bid to curb development in the region. “I didn’t get a whole lot of anti-growth sentiment,” he said. “Most people agree Post Falls is going to grow – it’s just how we manage that growth.”
That, he said, means to “stay ahead of the curve with proper infrastructure in place,” including roads, sewers, water lines, parks and open space, “everything that makes a community great.”
As growth occurs, Anthony said he’ll work to make sure the city is sensitive to the needs of existing neighborhoods. He heard concern about zoning issues in neighborhoods as he campaigned, he said. “Post Falls is now working on their comprehensive plan and their zoning code, which I think will take care of some of those issues,” he said.
The mayor and two council incumbents were unopposed in Tuesday’s election. Only the open seat created by the retirement of two-term Councilor Betty Ann Henderson prompted a contested campaign.
“I think Bobby being born and raised in Post Falls had a lot to do with his support,” Anthony said.
“It was a very, very clean election. Everybody was very graceful to each other,” he added.
Anthony, a 1970 graduate of Coeur d’Alene High School, holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in parks and recreation management from the University of Idaho. He retired four years ago as the longtime director of parks and recreation for the city of Coeur d’Alene, where he had worked for 42 years.
Anthony said he hopes to help protect the quality of life in Post Falls as it grows. “Post Falls is a great place, and I think a lot of people move there because of the quality of life,” he said.