While the results of the school board race are in question, most of the Driggs and Victor races were cleanly decided on Election Day.
Driggs City Council member Tristan Taylor, who was first appointed in July of 2020 to replace Wade Kaufman, will hold his seat for another two years. Vancie Turner, who ran as a write-in candidate, received 72 votes to Taylor’s 292.
The two four-year council terms still might be contested but the mayor’s race was decisive. Council president August Christensen beat sitting mayor Hyrum Johnson, winning 60 percent of the vote.
“Driggs has spoken,” Christensen said in a statement on Wednesday after the election. “I am excited to be the people’s mayor! I am humbled by the outpouring of support from the Driggs residents and our greater Teton Valley community. Thank you for sharing your passion of what matters most to you. Let’s work together for our small town we call home.”
Christensen will take the seat at the first Driggs council meeting of 2022.
“I look forward to working with Mayor Johnson and city staff to make a smooth transition into the new year,” she said.
Christensen, who has clashed frequently with the mayor during her tenure on council, modeled her campaign as a referendum on his leadership. Johnson described the campaign as “divisive and negative.”
“I challenge August to focus now on healing those divisions within our community,” he wrote in an email to the Teton Valley News. “Driggs faces real challenges ahead, which will require real leadership, unity, and creative solutions to navigate.”
Johnson said he was disappointed in the outcome of the election, but added that change presents the opportunity for improvement and growth.
“Despite the result, I do have great hope for Driggs. I believe Driggs will succeed because the city employs a top-flight staff, professional and driven by integrity, and because the city council are also largely people who respect their sworn duty and the law,” Johnson wrote. “As an eternal optimist, I look forward to seeing what the coming years will bring. I wish August the best in her new responsibilities. I am grateful for the trust Driggs placed in me for the last eight years. It has been an honor to serve this community, and I am proud of what has been accomplished during my time as mayor.”
In Victor, a supermajority of voters (over two-thirds) approved a lodging tax increase from three to six percent. The ballot measure also extended the life of the local option tax and added affordable housing as another allowed use for the monies.
Mayor Will Frohlich said he was very pleased with the outcome.
“We had increased it once before and it was a substantial increase to the bottom line of the city,” he said. “Obviously the local option tax can have ebbs and flows because it’s really due to demand in tourism-based economies but it’s really setting ourselves up for success to not depend on the taxpayers of the city to be able to reinvest back into the city but those that come and visit and use our infrastructure.”
The lodging tax in Driggs is three percent, which voters approved in 2017. The Driggs council has seemed interested in seeing the results of this month’s election before considering its own lodging tax increase ballot measure for 2022.
“We didn’t reinvent the wheel and go high. We found a middle ground and really looked at the impact. Hopefully Driggs will follow in line,” Frohlich said.
On the Victor City Council, Sue Muncaster will replace outgoing council president Molly Absolon, while Stacy Hulsing will hold her seat. Hulsing was appointed in early 2020 to replace Tim Wells.
Muncaster, an entrepreneur and writer, ran for county commissioner over a decade ago and lost. She said it feels better to be on the winning side.
In October she was hired as the communications manager for the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism board, which she said meshes well with her passion for sustainable and responsible tourism.
“There are a lot of ideas out there on mitigating the effects of tourists from the locals,” Muncaster said. “Most obvious of that is housing, so when people asked me while I was canvassing, I said housing was my number one issue. I’ve just been doing a lot of research on what our communities are doing, so I’m excited to work on that balancing act for sure.”
Hulsing said she was happy to retain her seat on the council, and voiced her excitement that Victor voters had approved the lodging tax increase with a wide margin.
Landon Kaufman trailed the other two candidates by a few dozen votes.
“All three candidates were very strong and Landon, he’s very passionate about supporting small businesses and a vibrant downtown,” Frohlich said. “He’s done work with us and I hope he continues to do so with the Victor Urban Renewal Agency. Even though he didn’t win a seat to council I encourage him and hope he stays involved as he has in the past.”
While there were seats open in Tetonia, because none of the races were contested, no election was held. Mayor Brent Schindler and Councilman Ryan Bonilla will retain their positions, and Steven Green will take Jimmy Hatch’s place on the council.
Schindler said he has many goals for his next four years in office; those include protecting the city’s heritage and constitutional rights, encouraging smart growth and unity, supporting businesses and affordable housing, cooperating with other jurisdictions, keeping the city safe, practicing fiscal responsibility, promoting city events, enforcing practical, fair ordinances, and listening to citizens.
“Tetonia is a uniquely charming small city,” Schindler said. “The residents are friendly and courteous. We enjoy a wonderful sense of community in Tetonia. While growth is inevitable, we need to ensure that we maintain our sense of community and unity in Tetonia.”