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Caldwell mayor: City's new mantra is 'We are one'

In his first State of the City address, Mayor Jarom Wagoner said he told city staff that everyone has a vital role in making Caldwell a great place.

CALDWELL, Idaho — In his first State of the City speech, Caldwell Mayor Jarom Wagoner said he aims to make things better for the city's employees, and "stop the bleeding," referring to the rate of employees leaving for other jobs and other cities.

After introductory remarks Friday, Wagoner said, "our employees have been understaffed, overworked, and underpaid for way too long, and we need to start fixing that immediately."

Wagoner said the "fix" will be a multi-step action plan, which includes increasing wages for all city employees and increasing staffing for a city that's rapidly growing.

"There are many positions that we are in need of that have been overlooked as we have continued to grow. The latest report I have seen, shows that Caldwell is near 70,000 residents," Wagoner said. "There are critical positions that we need to create to provide the support needed for a city of this size."

The 2020 U.S. Census put Caldwell's population at about 60,000. Ten years earlier, the city's population was just over 46,000.

"If we expect to have adequate staffing and filling needed positions, we must pay our employees appropriate wages for the work they are doing. The old adage, you get what you pay for, still holds true today," Wagoner said. "We are continually hiring new employees, spending the money to train them, to teach them, and to prepare them to do their jobs, only to see them quit to go to another agency. These are lost costs that sometimes get overlooked. We cannot continue to throw away Caldwell’s taxpayer dollars to train employees for other cities and agencies. We must stop the bleeding, and we must stop it now."

On the topic of city finances in general, Wagoner said he and the city council will be focusing on "spending smarter" as they begin the budget review process. He also spoke of the need for long-term investments.

"Too often in the past we have tried to save 10 cents today only to spend 50 cents tomorrow. We need to implement today’s technologies so that we can be more productive and efficient as a city," Wagoner said. "We need to review our processes and see if they are appropriate and adequate for a city that is nearly 70,000 people in population, with over 300 employees."

Along with the first new mayor in nearly a quarter century, the Caldwell City Council has four new members this year.

"This much change can bring challenges, but it also brings great benefit as we each have new ideas and different perspectives, bringing added insight into how we can make Caldwell better," Wagoner said.

"We are one" is the City of Caldwell's new mantra, Wagoner said as he recalled a recent citywide all-staff meeting.

"We talked about being one, that each and every one of us here at the City has a vital role to ensure our success and to make Caldwell a great place. We are one; when something needs done, we need to jump in and do it. We help each other, we look out for each other, we care for each other. We strengthen our team, which in turn strengthens our community," Wagoner said, adding that due to conflicting schedules, he was unable to meet with Caldwell's firefighters and police officers, but looks forward to meeting each of them in the near future.

Wagoner said the City is working to consolidate all its offices into one location. He said that will make it more convenient for the people of Caldwell to take care of their city business in one place, and said he believes it also will improve city employee morale and "make us all feel more united."

This year will see updated ordinances and codes, along with a redrawn Comprehensive Plan Map "to provide better design and layout for the future growth," Wagoner said.

Regarding Caldwell's business community, Wagoner noted the "resurgence" that has occurred over the past few years, from new retail and restaurant businesses in the downtown area to the "ever-increasing industrial commercial buildings within our Sky Ranch and North Ranch business area." He also said 2022 will be "an amazing year for Caldwell," mentioning construction underway for D&B Supply's flagship store expected to open next year along with other projects planned for the coming year.

2022 will also see the sunsetting of the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Area, Wagoner said.

"This Urban Renewal Area helped to revitalize downtown and the construction of Indian Creek Plaza, as well as the Sky Ranch and North Ranch Business Parks.  We have achieved great things with this Urban Renewal Area, but I also hope and believe that we have learned important lessons along the way about the proper use of Urban Renewal funding," he said.

"As mayor, my goal is to continue to improve the relationship that the city has with each of these businesses, and that they know how important they are to continue Caldwell's success," Wagoner said. "We need to reduce the red tape and increase the customer service when a business wants to relocate to Caldwell. Caldwell needs to be different from other cities."

Wagoner gave special praise -- and the Caldwell Community Hero Award for Business -- to Darigold, which continues to rebuild after the fire that severely damaged its downtown Caldwell plant on October 12, 2021. Darigold resumed partial production at the facility in February.

Caldwell Salvation Army Majors Robyn and Stephanie Bridgeo received the Caldwell Community Hero Award.

"I can’t begin to thank the Bridgeos enough for what they do and what they mean to our community, and the many others that, along with the Bridgeos, serve our community selflessly. I honor all of you as well. Serving with a willing heart and open arms makes us all better people," Wagoner said. 

Wagoner also announced a "new tradition," the Mayor's Charity Golf Scramble, starting in August.

"This annual event will be completely focused on raising money for a different charitable organization each year, with a goal of raising over $100,000 every year.  I am excited to announce that this year’s recipient will be the St. Luke’s Elks Rehab Facility here in the Treasure Valley," Wagoner said, adding that he was at St. Luke's Elks Rehab for several weeks in 2021, after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, which he was diagnosed with "literally the day" he filed paperwork to run for Caldwell mayor.

"I made a commitment there and then that if I was blessed to become Mayor that I would do something to help them and so many other deserving organizations throughout our community," Wagoner said.

Wagoner succeeds Garret Nancolas, who was Caldwell mayor from 1998 until 2021, when he decided to not run for reelection. Wagoner was sworn in in January after winning a runoff election against City Councilman John McGee.

Wagoner has also served on the Caldwell City Council and as a state representative in the Idaho House, as well working as a municipal planner for the City of Caldwell, Canyon County, and the Ada County Highway District.

Mayor Wagoner's address concluded shortly before 1 p.m. Friday. This story continues to be updated.

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