Wade Kaufman, the Driggs City Council member always armed with a folksy mixed metaphor, has resigned from council because he has moved out of the city.
“I’m not afraid of speaking my mind,” Kaufman said. “And sometimes my off-color comments have frustrated people who didn’t understand where I’m coming from.”
Kaufman was first appointed to replace Colin Dye in 2014 and was reelected in 2015 and again last November. The first meeting he participated in as a council member included a public hearing on Huntsman Springs that lasted until 1 a.m.
“Huntsman Springs has always had its own dynamic,” Kaufman said, referring to the development’s long history of complex land use applications. But, he said, referring to other decisions he’s been a part of, the council has sometimes had the tendency to get in the weeds more than it should.
“Some projects should have been a slam dunk but the council went the opposite direction,” he said. “Staff has always provided great information and direction but the uniqueness of council is the way they approach making decisions on behalf of citizens. I’ve definitely learned to enjoy everyone’s personality traits.”
A long-time valley resident, owner of Horizon Landscape Services, and president of the Skyliners Motor Club, Kaufman is usually the conservative voice on council, although, he said, “I’d often walk into a meeting with a decision in mind but 70 percent of the time my ideas were tossed and I went a different direction by the end of the night.”
Compromise and bridge-building is key in governance, he added.
“If you can’t listen then you should never consider serving in public office. If people are attracted to office because they’re upset or frustrated, they’re doing it for the wrong reason. You need to love the idea of being a public servant and building a better city and state for yourself, your family, and your community. If you can’t listen, you’re not worth beans in my opinion. You might as well be a block of concrete.”
Kaufman is proud of what the city has accomplished during his time on council.
“I think the city has made leaps and bounds, with a focus and prioritization on projects and infrastructure,” he said. “I remember pulling up bamboo piping from the 1800s—it’s so important that we build up modern infrastructure and give the city more curbside appeal.”
It is the mayor’s responsibility to appoint Kaufman’s replacement to serve until the next city election in 2021, and Kaufman has put in a few names for consideration. That’s part of the reason why he ran again last year even though he knew he wouldn’t be completing the term.
“I wanted the ability to suggest someone like-minded who will represent the individuals who I was speaking on behalf of,” Kaufman said.
Mayor Hyrum Johnson said he is reviewing a list of possible candidates, and agrees that a new council member should continue to represent Kaufman’s constituency. He also hopes to appoint someone who doesn’t live in the downtown grid; he thinks neighborhoods like Creekside Meadows and Valley Centre also deserve a voice in government.
When asked if he’ll run for office again, Kaufman said without hesitation, definitely.
“I have a couple things in mind,” he said. “I’m going to take a short break and then jump back in with both feet. It lit a small fire in me.”
Note: A previous version of this article identified Councilman Kaufman's constituents as "multi-generational residents and LDS churchgoers". Neither the councilman nor the mayor explicitly identified those constituents in this interview so that phrase was removed.