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Two Bonneville County commissioners reflect on years of service as they prepare to leave office

Bonneville County Commissioners Roger Christensen, left, and Bryon Reed are stepping down at the end of the year. Watch our interview with them in the video above. | Courtesy photos
IDAHO FALLS – Two longtime Bonneville County Commissioners will not be seeking re-election.
Roger Christensen, the county’s longest-serving commissioner, and Bryon Reed, are stepping down at the end of the year. Christensen, who has been in office since 1995, will finish his eighth term in December. Reed was first elected in 2016 and is finishing his second term.
In an interview with, Christensen says 30 years “felt like a good time to retire.”
“I survived eight contested challenges and didn’t know if there were going to be anymore,” Christensen says. “I’d like to spend more time in other service areas and chasing grandkids.”
The 71-year-old Idaho Falls man isn’t planning to run for office again but says he would like to be more involved in church service.
Reed says he planned to serve no more than eight years when he initially decided to run. He’s staying true to his commitment and is looking forward to getting back to his own business endeavors.
Reed, 65, of Osgood, is the brother of Reed’s Dairy owner Alan Reed. The dairy and the farm split into two operations in the 1980s and Bryon took over the farming operation.
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“When I became commissioner, my son, Derek, took over management of the farm,” Bryon explains. “I’m at a point now that I want to … help however I can on our growing farm.”
Both commissioner seats are heavily contested in the May 21 primary. Two candidates, Doyle Beck and Karl Casperson, are vying to replace Christensen for a two-year term. Beck currently serves as the Legislative District 32 Committee chairman and Casperson is a deputy and member of the dive team for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office.
Ty Hall initially filed to run as well but has since withdrawn from the race.
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Four people are running for Reed’s seat, which is a four-year position. The candidates hoping to replace Reed are current Bonneville Library District trustee Debra Haacke, former Idaho Falls police officer Barrett Hillier, former District Judge Michelle Mallard and business owner Alan Steel.
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Jon Walker, who occupies the third seat on the commission, is seeking a second term and will be the lone holdover.
Christensen is humbled by the confidence voters have placed in him, which has allowed him to remain in office for so long.
When Christensen was first elected, the county was on the verge of bankruptcy because it was spending “a million dollars more than it was bringing in.” One of his proudest accomplishments as commissioner is resolving that issue by building a reserve fund.
“Our reserves are probably the strongest of any county in Idaho,” he says. “We’ve taken that money we’ve saved on interest and been able to multiply it. Now we’ve been using that to accomplish a lot of the projects we’d planned (which includes various road improvement projects).”
Christensen, a former business owner and college professor, says there were many challenges in those early days. His accounting background inspired him to get involved in helping the county resolve its financial issues.
After getting elected, he quickly realized how challenging it was and he often felt discouraged. His former colleague, Bill Shurtliff, taught him something that’s always stuck with him.
“When you get discouraged, just keep your eye on the ball. Get the work done and don’t worry about getting re-elected,” Shurtliff said, according to Christensen. “That’s the way I’ve operated and it seems to have worked.”
Christensen was involved in relocating the Bonneville County Fairgrounds from Rollandet near Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls to 1542 East 73rd South near Sandy Downs. He counts that as one of his favorite projects.
He’s also enjoyed the role he’s played in appointing 13 county employees and numerous magistrate judges over the years.
“As a member of the Magistrate Commission, I think I’ve been involved in selecting 17 judges,” he says. “The two commissioners I’m currently serving with — we got a lot done because there’s no in-fighting and we just focus on getting the services to the constituents.”
He’s grateful for the people he’s worked with and the support he’s received from the community. To his successor, he offers some advice.
“Operate with transparency. Make decisions that keep your footprint in (voter’s) lives as small as possible. Keep government smooth and as simple as you can,” he says. “Not everyone’s going to be happy (with your decisions) but if you can give them a good, solid reason, they’ll understand.”
The division in politics today has created a lot of contention, Christensen says. He urges his successor to avoid getting caught up in it and be willing to work with others.

Bryon Reed talking about the new Bonneville County Fairgrounds in an interview with in 2019.
Reed has enjoyed working with other elected officials throughout the county in the last eight years. All of them come to work every day because they want to do what’s best for the county, he says, and he’s going to miss that association.
He was asked to oversee the construction of the new Bonneville County Fairgrounds when he first came into office and that’s his proudest accomplishment.
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“I took that project on and developed what is now 60 acres of Bonneville County fair ground. It consists of six separate buildings. We’ve nearly doubled the amount of youth we’re able to serve. The buildings are busy nearly every day of the week year-round,” says Reed.
Thirty percent of the cost came from local donors, such as the Farm Bureau and Melaleuca. Reed credits that as the reason for its success.
Reed was on the county planning and zoning commission for 10 years before becoming a county commissioner. He replaced Lee Staker, who asked him to run two years before his term expired.
“My great-grandfather moved to this county in 1914. Our family has been out on the west side (of Idaho Falls) for a long time. The community we live in is (wonderful) and I enjoy finding opportunities to serve in some way,” Reed says.
Reed says he’s open to running for office again, though he didn’t specify in what capacity.
The post Two Bonneville County commissioners reflect on years of service as they prepare to leave office appeared first on East Idaho News.

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