Luke S. Walker, left, Robert E. Chambers and Kelly H. McKamey
REXBURG — Nine candidates have filed to run for three open City Council positions in Rexburg.
To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each one. Their responses are listed below, were required to be 250 words or less, and were only edited for minor punctuation and grammar. Three candidates featured in this article include Luke S. Walker, Robert E. Chambers and Kelly H. McKamey. We will post the other candidates in the coming days.
Elections are on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Walker: Hey there! I hope you’re well. I grew up in lovely Montana, in the Yellowstone Valley. I have a wonderful wife and two precious children. They motivate me to become more and more refined. I love them. Physical fitness is important to me, and I have recently started learning the art of beekeeping. I am in the business of creating steel and hardwood floating shelves. I’ve done everything at my workplace from fulfillment to welding/fabricating and customer service. Service is one thing I’ve endeavored to engage in and something I’d like to continuously improve in. I have experience in organizing service projects and coordinating with municipal departments to accomplish goals through volunteer work versus employing unnecessary government spending. I also humbly serve our country as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.
Chambers: I grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, where I met my wife of 39 years, Robin Chambers. Together we have five children and 18 grandchildren. I obtained a master’s degree in public administration and a doctorate in political science, both from Idaho State University. Since then, I have devoted most of my career to public office and professional city management. In addition to the experience noted below, I have served on many local and state boards and am currently serving as a board member on the Rexburg Idaho Urban Renewal Agency.
Public service (22 years):
16 years as City of Pocatello’s director of Planning and Development Services.
6 years served on the Pocatello City Council.
Idaho State University (24 years):
2 years in admission counseling
7 years as manager of the Business and Research Park and director of The Center for Rural Economic Development.
15 years teaching as an adjunct faculty in ISU’s public administration program.
BYU-Idaho (10 years):
Faculty member in the Department of Religious Education.
McKamey: I grew up in a small town in northeast Montana named Glasgow. I spent much of my time on my grandparent’s farm, a sizable vegetable & produce farm. Right out of high school I joined the Army National Guard, serving there with my dad. I married a lovely lady who also graduated as a Glasgow Scottie, and we share our first name! She is Kelly Lynn McKamey. We have been married for 36 years, and have 5 amazing kids and nine of the very best grandchildren. Currently and long-term, I am a sole proprietor and work as a finish carpenter. In the past, I have worked as the administrator for a private pre-12th grade private school, Jefferson Montessori School, as well as an insurance agent for American Family Insurance. I’ve volunteered with the Family Crisis Center, working with my wife as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. I’ve also served at the local food bank for several years. I am an avid supporter of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) and am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve intensely studied early American history and the writings of the founders of this country. I attended U.S. government courses with George Wythe College, and also have been mentored by accomplished leaders and statesmen.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Walker: Without any intention of virtue signaling or sounding “holier than thou,” pride is one thing I try to avoid. Any good thing I’ve done can be credited to the Creator. That being said, I am grateful for the opportunity to be willing to give my life for the American legacy. I have also been grateful to spend many hours – thousands – studying, contemplating, and applying the inspired words of our nation’s framers, as well as uplifting spiritual works. I am most grateful to be a husband and father.
Chambers: 1. Being Robin’s husband, father to our children, and grandfather to our grandchildren. 2. The contentment earned from my best efforts over the years in service to my family, my church and my professional endeavors.
McKamey: The most important accomplishments in my life? First, my marriage and my family. Next, my service to my country, and to those who need someone to advocate for them. There is little that is more important than rescuing those in need and fighting the evils of this world. I cherish my relationship with my family and friends – and my grandfather, who was a key part of my life when I was young.
What are the greatest challenges facing your community?
Walker: There are many local challenges that must be addressed. That’s why it’s good to have many representatives instead of an aristocratic few, so multiple challenges can be tackled simultaneously and so public accountability can be greater. With that being said, my focus has been on long-term challenges. Looming threats to our bodily autonomy in the form of mask/vaccine mandates, and substantial dependence on federal funding in our community will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren. Precedents have been set – and are being set right now – that will cause us to relinquish the rights and prosperity our children might have enjoyed. Whether or not you believe in the efficacy of masks/vaccines, it is not the proper role of government to enforce laws of that nature. Also, the acceptance of federal funding is a dangerous game. What happens when a municipality or state refuses to comply with a federal mandate? The well of federal silver dollars dries up. What then? A city/state has a very hard time exercising the power given to it by its citizens, simply because it doesn’t have the resources to do so. Roads crumble, budgets are cut, and citizens are unhappy. This has actually happened many, many times in our country. I know that reversing the tides of these issues can’t be done overnight, but let’s start now! Let’s relearn how to be agents unto ourselves.
Chambers: I think the most consistent challenge for local communities, including our own, is providing basic services within budgetary constraints. The greatest example of this is perhaps the city’s need, but difficulty in keeping up with street maintenance and repair/reconstruction. This challenge is magnified when the city’s growth outpaces local revenue. Hence, another challenge for Rexburg is continuing to nurture growth while at the same time managing its impacts in a responsible manner.
McKamey: Rexburg’s greatest challenges? One glaring issue is unprecedented growth — from BYU-I, people moving to the area permanently, and the recent plans involving The Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This growth demands we focus on the city government’s primary responsibilities and make sure we get them right:
Infrastructure (streets, traffic control, lighting, etc.)
Long-term potable water supply
Fire and emergency services
Parks and recreation needs
Maintenance of city and public services
Balanced management of growth and construction
The local government has the primary responsibility of taking care of those items that have been appropriately delegated to them by the taxpayers and local citizens. They do not need to meddle in other things if they cannot ensure the basics are effectively covered. Local government works best when it is limited in its scope.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor(s)?
Walker: I am firmly dedicated to upholding the spirit of the Constitution in Rexburg. While the letter applies mostly at the federal level, the spirit must be lived here. My dedication to understanding sound principles and natural law, my willingness to defend these principles, and my service experience place me in a unique position to be a humble servant and to reject complacency and vain ambition. I am capable of learning all that must be learned to effectively serve the community and will do so in a way that respects natural rights.
Chambers: Though I am not the only candidate capable of addressing these challenges, I can say that I have made the study and the management of these kinds of issues the better part of my life’s work. I am not running for City Council because I am on a crusade to right some overwhelming wrong, but because I believe in the service role of local government. I have a passion for this work and in making the lives of residents better. It is very satisfying.
McKamey: One of the most important things in properly addressing the challenges facing Rexburg is understanding the proper roles of local government. The City Council is the only legislative body in the city, and in Rexburg, comprises the only publicly elected representative body of officials besides the mayor. They (the City Council) have both the legal and moral responsibility to directly represent the taxpayers and citizens in regards to local ordinances (laws) as well as in the expenditure of all local tax dollars. The City Council must be directly accountable to the citizens and actively listen to their concerns and needs. We must operate based upon true principles of governance, as well as compassion and empathy.
There is an important and unequaled responsibility of balancing the needs of the city government to function effectively, and protecting the rights and tax dollars of the citizens. This should function best at the local level – where the citizens know the City Council members personally and can have access to them, without dealing with the problems of distance and aloofness experienced on the state and federal levels of government. Comprehending these principles more fully than some of the other candidates me apart from them significantly.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Walker: By advocating for natural rights, minimal regulation, and deregulation, my constituents can have the breathing room necessary to conduct their lives in the manner they choose. Regardless of how extensively they feel government should intervene, they can be enabled to live their views without compelling their neighbors to do the same.
Chambers: As stated previously, I believe in local government and its role of providing essential services in the most efficient and effective ways possible to better serve residents. I trust local government employees and their expertise. I believe that the City Council, working together with the mayor and city staff, can resolve any issue Rexburg may face. But we cannot do it without the support of an informed and engaged citizenry. Therefore,
I will advocate for appropriate and civil dialogue on issues that are essential to decide together. I want to make community engagement as easy as possible. For example, in the provision of essential services, I advocate for the administration of a preference survey among residents to gauge such questions as, “How are we doing in the provision of services?”, “What can be done better?”, “What services beyond the basics are most desired?”
I will listen. Part of civil dialogue is to listen to understand each other. I will not assume that “my way” is the best way. When it is time to represent residents in the legislative decisions of the city, I will do so with the intent of doing what is right for the community and the majority of its citizens.
Finally, I will speak my mind, offer my opinion, let residents know where I stand on issues and why. I will do my best to inform them on decisional matters so that they in turn can help me make the best decisions possible.
McKamey: Representing the views and concerns of all local taxpayers and citizens requires active listening. As constituents present their concerns, frustrations, and even anger, Council members actively listening and seeking to understand their concerns is paramount. When someone is concerned enough to attend a council meeting and testify on their own behalf, they need to KNOW they are being heard and that their concerns are going to be addressed.
The public comment portion of the Rexburg Council meetings are restrictive to the point that citizens are prevented from addressing items on the agenda for that particular meeting! Furthermore, most public hearings are NOT conducted with the City Council, but with the mayor-appointed P&Z Board. This is NOT a posture showing the council wants to hear and represent the concerns of their constituents.
The city attorney recently stated he doesn’t want the City Council to personally hear the opinions or emotions of the citizens. He wants them to only read the pertinent facts in any matter, devoid of emotions or opinion. This is a betrayal of the very representative nature the council members actually hold. How can the citizens feel they are able to have their views heard when the city attorney is doing what he can to restrict them from even testifying to the City Council in person?
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your city? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?
Walker: I love the First Amendment to the Constitution, which details freedoms of expression. One freedom of expression is “freedom of the press.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines the press as, “The art or business of printing and publishing…” Anyone engaged in the art of printing or publishing is “the press,” to include East Idaho News, myself via the podcasts I’m involved with (the “Defending Idaho” podcast and “The Higher Principles Podcast”), and anyone else who uses various forms of media. The media should be unhindered in its investigating, reporting and publishing, and should only be stopped when violating property rights or engaging in libel and slander. The media should diligently seek to engage in unbiased reporting and publication. (East Idaho News could improve in this area.) Rexburg relies on the media, including East Idaho News, for the timely dissemination of information in all aspects of life. I am always willing to communicate with local reporters, unless such communication would be illegal or inappropriate. Informing reporters on information relevant to the community is important!
Chambers: The media is one of the most important tools we have as a city to inform and engage residents. I am a strong advocate for openness and transparency in the work of local government and welcome local media involvement, including social media. I believe the best thing that I can do is to ensure that the city is making use of all forms of media types to reach as many people as possible. Therefore, it may be time for the City Council to consider the creation and promotion of its own social media presence to reach more people making access for them easier. Of course, I will also make myself available to media outlets with a willingness to engage as requested and to invite participation in reporting issues of broad local interest.
McKamey: I believe the media can and should play a vital role in holding city officials accountable, and helping ensure the citizens know about vital concerns well in advance of actual City Council votes. I believe that as a council member I can help alert the media to upcoming issues that are potentially impactful. Full disclosure on all public matters (except for those issues dealing with personnel or personally private concerns as provided in the law) is necessary and expected by the taxpayers.
What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?
Walker: None. Enacting health-related laws to micromanage the spread of microbial illnesses is not the proper role of government. Also, whenever there has been a real pandemic in our country, the citizens have been very adept at governing themselves.
Chambers: Unfortunately, the COVID virus has become overly divisive at a time and in circumstances that should bring us together. I worry that amid this divisiveness, we have lost that capacity to engage in civil dialogue. To me, that dialogue begins with understanding one’s assumptions that lead to one’s conclusions. Below are my assumptions and conclusions about COVID:
I assume a great deal of trust for our health professionals, including our local medical professionals and the Eastern Idaho Public Health department (EIPH). I believe the preventative standards they recommend being proper and wise (see eiph.idaho.gov for those standards). Therefore, I am not opposed to masks or vaccinations and encourage them.
I assume mandates, such as the wearing of masks or the administration of vaccines, to be an overly burdensome enforcement challenge to the city. I also assume the legality of vaccine mandates to still be in question. Therefore, I do not believe the city should mandate the wearing of masks or the administration of vaccines. However, I do believe that the city can and should be a promotional and educational partner to the preventative standards recommended by local health professionals.
Can my assumptions be informed and changed? Yes. For example, if our local health professionals were to recommend mask mandates, I would welcome that conversation with them and residents. Again, I am an advocate for civil dialogue assuming that no issue is greater than the strength of our cooperative working relationships.
McKamey: We have a very active regional health board addressing COVID-19 issues. We have the state and federal government addressing many issues regarding COVID. We have a veritable tidal wave of information available to anyone who can read or listen, and the last thing we need is one more level of government inserting themselves into people’s decisions. As a City Council, we need to help limit the divisiveness and anger and impose no local mandates restricting people from living their lives and operating their businesses. We need to direct people to make wise decisions, respect the decisions of their neighbors, and treat each other with kindness and respect. The citizens need to know they can function in their lives without further and unnecessary government interference.
If you received a multi-million dollar grant to use for the city in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Walker: Where is the grant coming from? If a federal or state grant, I would politely refuse. Not because I don’t care about the people of Rexburg and our needs, but because of principle. Accepting/becoming reliant upon government grants is living above one’s means and forces smaller governments to comply with the undesirable agendas of larger governments. Now, what if the grant originated from private benefactors? That’s a different story. You couldn’t bribe me in an attempt to compromise my values and integrity, but if a private grant was offered for a good cause with no strings attached, I would accept. Some causes that could use the money are the local food bank, the animal shelter, and the ROADS. I love Rexburg, but the roads need some TLC. I would also communicate with the public to determine if these were the correct choices. Rhetoric is important! The aforementioned issues are important to me because the first two institutions benefit those in need, and the latter is an improvement everyone would appreciate.
Chambers: I would hold a series of town hall meetings to engage the public in a discussion of best uses of this money. I would expect the city staff to inform the decision-making process by offering information as to where current and future needs of the city exist. For example, a logical consideration would be the funding of the city’s long-range capital plan, and in bringing services lagging behind acceptable standards up to date. But resident input should be a consideration in how this money is spent.
McKamey: If a large and generous financial grant were made available to the city of Rexburg, I believe the City Council should prioritize the needs of the community first. We have a very expensive wastewater treatment system that does not fully function properly, we have deteriorating streets, we have areas needing regulated crosswalks for public safety, we have public park and trail needs, we need to ensure our police and emergency services are properly equipped, and we have growth with no end in sight, and all of these things will need money to address them. A grant would allow these several items to be taken care of without increasing the tax burden on the citizens. The taxpayers and citizens expect the city-provided services and infrastructure to function properly and be in good repair before delving into other, ancillary ventures.
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