Doug Smith and Bron Leatham | Courtesy photos
REXBURG — Doug Smith, a retired Dentist, and Bron Leatham, a businessman and developer, are facing off in the 2020 race for Madison County Commissioner.
John Weber, the current Madison County commissioner, is leaving is position to seek legislative House Seat District 34A and both candidates want to replace him.
Both Smith’s and Leatham’s families have lived in Madison County for generations. Both men left the area for a time before returning to raise their families in the place they call home.
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each county commission candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less. They are unedited.
More information on Smith can be found on Facebook and his website.
More information on Leatham can be found on Facebook.
Tell us about yourself
Smith: I am a fourth-generation Madison County resident, growing up raising potatoes and moving pipe. Graduated from Madison High, Ricks College and Utah State University. I met my wife of 53 years at Utah State and we were married the summer after graduation. We are the parents of four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all living in Rexburg.
After our marriage of a few days, we were off to dental school in St. Louis. My wife taught elementary school, while I did my dental training graduating in 1971. With Vietnam raging and having a low draft number it was time to serve my country, joining the US Army. My Army career spanned 38 years, retiring in 2005 as a colonel in the USAR. My dental practice was established in 1975 following my active duty time in Germany. It continues under the capable hands of my son Dr. Ryan Smith. and partner Dr. Scott Wilkes.
Along with my military reserve time and full-time dental practice, I served on the Rexburg Zoning and Planning Board, active as a scout leader and city committees. Enjoying winter sports and learning to skate ski, I found it was a long drive to Harriman State Park every time I wanted to ski, so I asked permission to groom a trail at the Teton Lakes golf course. It has been going on for some 30 years.
I retired and sold my practice in 2013 when my wife and I were called back to Germany as Military Relations Missionaries. My wife and I are just completing a service mission and it is now a good time to give back to the community that has given us so much.
Leatham: I am a fifth-generation resident of Madison County, a father of eight, and a local business owner, I am grateful for the opportunity to live in the greatest place on earth. I am running for County Commissioner to preserve and enhance what makes Madison County so great.
After graduating from MHS in 1994, I attended Ricks College and then served a Church mission in New Jersey. After graduating from Ricks College and marrying the love of my life in 1998, we moved south and completed our schooling at BYU. I graduated with a degree in Accounting and accepted a job as a Management Consultant in Chicago. From there we pursued a career in Real Estate Development with a national homebuilder, which took us to Northern California and then eventually to South Texas. In Texas, I became business partners with a custom home builder and we developed a 500-acre ranch into a custom home community. While in Texas, we also started a commercial construction company. We loved living in Utah, Chicago, California and Texas; however, we always felt a draw to come home to Idaho.
In 2013, the opportunity to come home became a reality when we purchased Cedarpoint Trucking from my father and his partner of over 30 years. In 2016, I also started Leatham Development, which has developed almost 200 units of new community housing in two projects named Sawtell and Juniper Sands.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life?
Leatham: I have enjoyed 22 years of marriage to my best friend. She has supported me through my education and career. She has happily lived in 6 states and moved over a dozen times prior to us permanently settling in Rexburg. We have been blessed with 8 wonderful children and we work hand in hand to be the best parents we can
be. These relationships with my wife and children are what I am the most proud of and grateful for.
Smith: The most important accomplishment was convincing my wife to marry me and what a great partner I have. Our four children are our fondest accomplishment. The accomplishment of education, it opens so many doors. My time serving as a soldier was a great privilege and helped me realize what a great place we live. Another great opportunity came as a Boy Scout, I attain the rank of Eagle and then to use those skills to help other boys and adults. And lastly to be recognized by my profession and the Academy of General Dentists as being pretty good at what I do by being awarded Master of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Briefly explain your political platform, and/or legislative goals
Smith: I am not running to create a bunch of new rules or to push some hidden agenda. I want to help our businesses get back on their feet after this pandemic. To get people back to work and get past this manipulated fear that has been pound into us. Our counties will need to run lean with tight belts to allow businesses, farmers, apartment owners, and others to get their feet under them. We need to get schools open, our hospital treating patients again. We will need to get to where we can grow again. I think it will take a county commission that is watching every dollar spent and cheerleading people back to their new way of normal.
Leatham: Five Specific Areas that I am interested in working on:
1. Promote free enterprise by reducing government regulation -This combination is the proven means for individual families and businesses to thrive and prosper. When any new legislation is proposed, I will ask that we find something to get rid of.
2. Local Solutions to Local Problems – The needs of our County can best be served locally. The more we depend upon State and Federal government, the more our rights are eroded. Wherever possible, I will seek to bring the problem solving back to a local level.
3. Property Tax Reform – I will work for more local control and finding alternative means for property valuations that are less arbitrary and more equitable. Many options have been considered at the State level, but we need to changes adopted.
4. Improve our Development Code – This is the local legislation the governs land use and development in our County. These rules comprise hundreds of pages of rules meant to protect property owners. I want to simplify and minimize this code to make it easier to understand, interpret and enforce.
5. Maximize the Benefit of Every Budget Dollar– There are always opportunities to improve operations. As part of the annual budgeting process, I will ask each County Department to propose ways to reduce costs and stretch their budgets further to do more with less.
What are the greatest challenges facing your county?
Leatham: GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT. How do we balance the interests of those who have built Madison County with the interests of those who want to continue building on what has already been accomplished? Prosperity for all is my primary concern.
Considering what this community has done for me and my family, I feel a great desire to give back in a way that I can make a difference. I want Madison County to be home to many of my children and future grandchildren. My experience being actively engaged in the public process as a developer gives me a unique perspective that can help Madison County experience the positive effects of continued growth while avoiding the pitfalls that so frequently accompany it. My experience as a business owner has taught me to be fiscally responsible, to be thoughtful and decisive, and to always be looking to the future. As a husband and father, I have learned to counsel with those who challenge you, set high expectations then help others meet them, and it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Smith: The greatest challenge in our county will be meeting the needs of a growing county with less tax dollars. Trimming the county budget, not asking more from taxpayers, and allow everyone to get back to work. It will take several years for the businesses that are shut down to recover. We want them to recover and not be driven into extinction with out of control taxes or reckless spending.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor?
Smith: I do not know my competitor well enough to even address his skills and therefore will not. I will address my own experience and you can decide. Only a few months into starting my dental practice the Teton Dam Flood hit Madison County stopping all business much like our present Pandemic. I learned government can help, but we are left on our own to work and help each other. Good local leaders are worth their weight in gold. My Army time and working through the ranks with many opportunities to command and lead humanitarian exercises have provided multiple leadership experiences. I have also lead a successful dental practice for many years. I have the skills to help lead our county back to and beyond where we were.
Leatham: I know very little about my opponent in this race, but what I do know is that he is a good man who is well respected. He has made a significant difference in his community, his family, and he cares deeply for Madison County.
The only difference I would point to is that I am in the middle of my career, I am very active in my business ventures, and I am looking to expand the opportunities Madison County has to offer my family and our community. I expect the next 30 years of my career to be the most impactful, and I hope a significant portion of that impact will be through local politics. Two points that I will focus on as a County Commissioner include:
LEVERAGE – The combination of talent, education, and an entrepreneurial drive that is so evident in our community could be leveraged to attract more industries and expand our job market for the next generation who are often leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere. I will work to see this unique combination bring more opportunity to our community.
LISTEN – We are more diverse than we realize, but perhaps not all of us are being heard. As we open a broader, more inclusive dialogue as a community, we will be inspired by what we can accomplish working together to discover the best solution for all. I will ensure equitable representation on any matter that affects the future of our community.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents- even those with differing political views?
Leatham: I will share two examples to illustrate my ability to listen to and represent the views
of all constituents:
Trucking is Diversity – As a local business owner in the trucking industry, we provide employment that supports the lives of 85 families. Each family has a unique set of circumstances, and each have a different perspective based on their experiences and personal interests. Our team is constantly growing and evolving, and we are as much of a melting pot as you can find in Madison County. Our team embraces people of differing Race, Color, Religion, Familial Status, Gender Identity,
Sexual Orientation, Nationality, and Age – The relationships I have developed with our team has given me a broader perspective and has made me more grateful for our differences and for the opportunity to live in a country where literally all people can have a voice and be represented.
Dependence on Agriculture – Agriculture has been the backbone of our community for 140 years, and I don’t expect that to change. What has changed is the dramatic improvements in technology, equipment, products, and yields. Their industry is volatile, risky, and continually evolving. Minimizing regulation and fostering free markets is the best way our government can support our farmers. My personal trucking business simply would not exist without agriculture. I will represent the interests of those who continue to bring so much prosperity to our County.
Smith: I believe the best way to represent the views of my constituents is to find out what their views are. If my profession has taught me anything, it is that you cannot solve anyone’s problem if you do not know what the problem is. The only way I know to do that is listen, just shut your mouth and listen. Then follow up with clarifying and probing questions. From this point on I should be able to represent anyone’s point of view. I may not agree but, at least I know where they stand.
How do you plan to improve relationships with other elected officials in your county and with state legislative officials?
Smith: I think answer six is the start of any relationship and then as we know of their views we work to help accomplish the work of our great county. Contention is the stopper of progress. There are bound to be disagreements and we cannot sacrifice our values, but it is requisite that we find a compromise that will move our county forward.
County Commissioners – First developing a good working relationship with the other commissioners will be critical to getting up to speed and identifying where I can be most useful. Knowing the strengths and interests of Todd and Brent compared to my own will enable us to effectively share the workload in a way that we can make the biggest difference in the community.
Other County Officials – Recently I spent an hour with Evan Wise who has been running the Fairgrounds the past couple of years. I was impressed with what he has been able to accomplish in so short of a time. He has effectively worked with the Commissioners as well as other County Departments to stretch his limited budget to meet the needs of those who regularly use these facilities. This type of teamwork is what I look forward to continuing and expanding to benefit other departments and getting the most ‘bang for our buck’ with the County budget.
State Legislators – Communicating the needs and concerns we have locally to our State Representatives and then holding them accountable to representing those interests at the State level is the best approach. In turn, understanding what they are working on and communicating that back to the County will be beneficial.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your county? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the local issues?
Leatham: Working closely with local media outlets is the best means to keep residents
informed. I would like to see a weekly synopsis done following each of the Commissioner meetings to give the media and our community a snapshot of what we are working on. A few concise talking points I think would suffice as well as the ability for people to easily submit questions via social media outlets. And of course, I will always welcome any inquiries from local reporters – just call me directly at (208)-351-3044.
Smith: The media is responsible to inform the public of county issues. They should not choose sides or give emphasis to one point over another, Just report the news. It is the responsibility of the commission to inform the media of meeting time, place, and an idea of what is on the agenda. I don’t feel commissioners should have any more influence on media than any other citizen. The media should concentrate on reporting the news, give us the facts, and let us make our own decisions.