Chmelik, Rehder have differing views for Idaho County; general election set Nov. 6
By Lorie Palmer – community editor, ICFP–Oct. 10, 2012
District 3 Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik (R) will face a familiar opponent in the Nov. 6 general election. Jim Rehder (D) will challenge his fellow Cottonwood resident for the four-year term position.
Chmelik took the seat from Rehder, who was a commissioner for six years, in 2008.
Jim Rehder [Idaho County Commissioner Candidate ENDORSED BY STOP THE SWAP]
Jim Rehder isn’t shy about why he is running for commissioner.
“I am not a one-trick pony,” he said. “I haven’t sat here and vegetated for the past four years, I have been working, talking to people and solving problems.”
Rehder is a lifelong Idaho County resident who said “the county is being led by a very narrow ideology.”
Rehder sees the biggest issue facing the county currently is the end of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds.
“I don’t see the commission chasing after this when that’s what they need to be doing,” he said. “SRS is a proven method that lawmakers understand and that works.”
Chmelik, said Rehder, is for The Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act of 2012 which is a test bill for 200,000 acres which the sponsors hope to have transferred from federal to state for revenue, with the caveat the fire mitigation stays under the feds.
“I see this as having little to no chance of passing,” Rehder said. “It is fine to go after it — but you don’t quit one job before you have another. Keep working with SRS as it is reasonable and equitable funding. Don’t advocate against SRS.”
SRS funds were set to expire in 2008; however, with lobbying accomplished my many individuals, agencies and school districts, the monies were allocated for another four years. It was then extended for this year.
“I believe the different between my leadership style and my opponent’s is the fact I like to work from the bottom up, integrating with people and listening to them and coming up with solutions,” Rehder said. “The current commission works from the top-down and is not proactive, only reactive.”
As examples, Rehder listed the Lochsa Land Exchange and the potential Forest Service office move.
“I am not against all land exchanges but I am definitely against the Lochsa Land Exchange — it’s not a good deal,” Rehder emphasized. “I feel if I were a commissioner this would not have become the explosive thing it has become. It would have been out in the open and discussed from the get-go.”
Rehder also feels the commission could have openly supported keeping the Forest Service office in Grangeville; however, it sat back and waited for a group of citizens to do the legwork and work on coming up with a better plan.
Since that group is already formed and working well, Rehder said, if elected he would work with this group and continue to keep pressure on the Forest Service “without beating them up.”
Rehder also feels the current commission did not handle the regional landfill issue with competence and is worried about the county’s future with technology and emergency communication.
“Chmelik recommended to cut funding for emergency communications and technology initiatives, and problem solving has been abandoned since I left office,” Rehder stated. “We need high-speed Internet in the courthouse but we also need the development of broadband for businesses, education and emergency response. Idaho County must not fall behind.”
“I do not follow a rigid ideology that predetermines my solutions and I don’t make adversaries with individuals or government agencies I’m obligated to work with,” Rehder added. “The voters of Idaho County have two very different candidates for county commissioner. I have a history of solid, representative service; I hope this election is not decided on Republican versus Democrat, but rather who will better serve the people of Idaho County.”
“The difference between my opponents’ party and mine is they want to keep dipping from the same pie while my thought is to make more pies,” said incumbent Jim Chmelik.
For Chmelik, the answers to Idaho County’s economic problems lie in its natural resources.
“We have to get back into the forest and cut trees,” he said. “If we don’t, it’s a huge program for our county.”
Chmelik explained this is why he supported the Lochsa Land Exchange.
“I fought for it because it’s a new concept, the feds trading acre of acre and paying for anything over that,” Chmelik said. “I am not about selling private ground, but exchanging for a profit is different.”
“I feel we are missing out on a great opportunity by not cooperating with some sort of land exchange,” he added. “I have been told I have a moral obligation to preserve that land for future generations — but what about the moral obligations to solve our economic issues? It is sad to me people are more concerned about where they can ride their four-wheelers than they are about putting their neighbors to work.”
Chmelik said he spent more than 100 hours meeting with people regarding the land swap.
“I sat in coffee shops, bars, with people in their living rooms and I listened — and 85 percent of those people were not of the same mind as I am, but we learned things from each other,” he said. “I did not go into my decisions blindly. I researched and truly felt and feel this is a way for us to get in the woods and work.”
Although Chmelik said the future of the SRS funding is extremely limited, he also feels he will have to go after this to help the county.
“It’s a double-edged sword and we will have to find other forms of income — which is why I support the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act as another form of funding,” he said.
He has traveled to Washington, D.C., several times for Idaho County.
“However, by going to Congress I think we are telling our story to the wrong people,” he said. “We have a story to tell here but we need to get it out to the American people.”
He said the management of our national forest land has been disastrous, the cause of which is the burning of millions of acres across the state.
“The environmentalists are concerned about clear-cuts? This is the biggest clear-cut ever imaginable. Think of the erosion and all the things we now have no control over, all because the land was not managed properly in the first place,” he shook his head.
Chmelik said loves he Idaho County and wishes not only his wife, but also he had been born and raised here.
“It’s where I want to stay and it’s where I want my kids to live, too,” he said.
Chmelik said though he has his ideology, he is is not so set in his ways that he cannot change his mind.
“I base my decisions on objectivity over emotions anytime,” he stated.
Chmelik said the committee working to keep the Forest Service office in Grangeville has done an “outstanding job,” coming up with a good plan.
“It’s a plan I can support,” he said.
Overall, Chmelik said, he feels he is the best, most consistent candidate for the job of Idaho County Commissioner.
“It’s a battle for the heart and soul of this county and this country,” he said. “Do we want bigger government or less government? I’m for what we need but no more.”