Over seven years ago, mayors from all over northern Idaho responded to an invitation from Mayor Sandi Bloem to participate in what was to be the first of many meetings to develop common goals and purposes for the region’s cities. Since that inaugural meeting on July 22, 2002, city leaders from as far south as Lapwai and as far north as Bonners Ferry, have been coming together to share concerns and discuss ideas to meet common challenges.
At the first meeting, Association of Idaho Cities (AIC) Executive Director Ken Harward facilitated the gathering, which included a SWOT analysis of each city – an assessment of its Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. Former Governor Dirk Kempthorne was the featured lunch speaker. Having once served as the mayor of Boise, he talked about the importance of partnerships, the benefits of being a city in Idaho, and the need to open lines of communication with other cities to increase the welfare of all. At the end of this meeting, mayors decided to form the North Idaho Mayors Coalition (NIMC) and they elected Mayor Sandi Bloem its chair. The group decided to meet regularly to discuss issues and to provide an educational format at the meetings so they could make informed decisions.
“There are many issues that challenge us,” said Bloem. “Before we can effectively act on them, we must first gain knowledge.”
In the years that followed, the North Idaho Mayors Coalition would have informational meeting presentations on Idaho’s railways and the rails-to-trails program, the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP), Water Conservation and Xeriscaping, The Idaho Rural Partnership, Affordable Housing, the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the P.O.S.T Academy, and a Regional Public Planning Transportation Authority (RPTA), among many other subjects.
A key discussion topic over the years has been the Idaho Legislature. “It’s been great to have Ken Harward from AIC at our meetings to keep mayors updated on legislative issues and how they affect cities,” said Mayor Bloem. “It’s especially important to have this information when it involves funding from the state, and Ken is right on top of it.”
Bloem believes that the NIMC has really broadened the number of people from north Idaho who have involved themselves at the state level and have a presence on state committees. She says it’s because they believe they now have a voice.
“Most important, these meetings are a time for all of us to come together and better understand our common problems,” said Bloem. “The best meetings are the ones when most of the mayors get to share some good news.” For more information about the North Idaho Mayors Coalition, contact Victoria Bruno at 769-2204.