Half of the Idaho Falls City Council’s six seats changed hands Thursday night.
Councilmen Jim Francis and Jim Freeman replaced former Councilman Ed Marohn and former Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt, respectively, while Councilwoman Shelly Smede replaced former Councilman David Smith.
Applause rose from the packed city council chambers as new council members were sworn in, each facing the crowd with a raised hand. They moved behind the council daisto set up notebooks and iPads as outgoing council members shook hands, hugged and departed from the other side.
Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper referenced city officials, elected and otherwise, in a speech to the crowd.
“A city is only as good as its leadership,” she said. “I have to tell you it’s my conviction that we have a great team. Year in and year out this group accomplishes much and truly makes a difference in the lives of Idaho Falls citizens.”
Near the end of a long meeting full of ceremonies and recaps of 2017 accomplishments, the new council attended to its first agenda.
Francis, a retired history teacher, felt the “burden” of his council seat in the face of upcoming city challenges.
“It drops on us, the community and the mayor, so big decisions are ahead,” he said. “I come here with two documents behind me: the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. You put those two together and I can be consistent with that. Decisions will be OK even though not everyone will be happy.”
Freeman, a retired firefighter, felt the presence of his father, Jim Freeman Sr. and grandfather, Russ Freeman, who were both Idaho Falls councilmen.
“It’s a very exciting night, particularly exciting for me because of my history with my family. My father and my grandfather are very close to me tonight,” Freeman said. “It’s a really good feeling.”
Smede, dean of students at Compass Academy, was caught up in the moment.
“It is exhilarating — seeing all of these people who are supportive and have taught me,” she said. “It’s really here and I actually get to vote tonight and I’m terrified, but I hope I can do a good job. I’ve studied and I’m ready.”
Before the new council began its work, Casper honored Marohn and Smith. (Ehardt, who was appointed to the state Legislature, was in Boise.)
The group had attended a dinner the night before — “I would call it more of a roast,” Smith said.
Casper said Marohn and Smith are “two fine gentlemen” who were able to “intelligently process the data and information presented to them while governing this city.”
“They were able to make quality decisions and in every instance put the needs of the community, city and employees ahead of whatever agenda they had. … (It’s) been an honor to serve with them,” Casper said.
The mayor presented the former councilmen with their portraits, featuring inscriptions on the back, that hung in city hall.
“I had more blonde hair then,” Marohn joked.
“We love you and we’re going to miss you,” Casper responded while the crowd stood and applauded.
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.