Meridian City Council, seat 5: Drew Wahlin

October 8, 2013 

Name: Drew Wahlin

Age: 66

Occupation: Managing principal, Idaho Consulting International, an emerging growth and capital formation practice.

Education: Master's of Business Administration, University of Puget Sound; bachelor's degree, University of California.

Prior political experience: None

Civic involvement: Member of Meridian Lions, 1 year; President/Founder of Idaho Chukar Foundation Inc., 5 years; Past Idaho AARP Executive Council Member, 2 years; Supporter of Political Term Limits, 15 years; Supporter of Idaho Humane Society, 20 years; Volunteer to Junior League of Boise, 8 years; Entrepreneurial Business Instructor/Mentor, BSU’s Small Business Development Center, 5 years

Years living in Meridian: 8-plus

Family: N/A

Website: None

Social media accounts: Facebook

1. What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?

I bring to the Meridian City Council a clear understanding of the issues before the City due to my attending all City Council and Commission Meeting starting June 1, 2013. I also bring age, an extensive business background, community volunteerism, approachable access, and an open ear to the community that provides the basis for a better choice.

Career: Founder/managing principal of Idaho Consulting International for the past 18 years; entrepreneur/owner in 11 start-up businesses many of which were in Idaho; former business writer for the Idaho Statesman; former faculty member Boise State University College of Business & Economics; former vice president, business development/strategic planning of a Fortune 50 company; corporate/municipal finance experience on Wall Street; public company board audit committee and chair experience; public company board compensation committee experience; fund Accounting (i.e. governmental) background; former Real Estate Broker; former professional athlete.

2. If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.

1. Demonstrating fiscal conservatism in budgeting. One of the certainties is that economic cycles exist and city leaders need to maintain a forward thinking contingency plan for economic downturns. “Keep your eyes on the stars but your feet on the ground,” T. Roosevelt.

2. Developing a clear vision for Meridian’s future growth. The new economic ecology requires community leaders who develop employment opportunities that produce a family living wage culture for their community. I would be a collaborative council member who advances the notion of developing and implementing a clear vision for Meridian’s future growth. A possibility would be “Meridian, the City of Parks.”

3. Completion of Meridian’s 2015 Strategic Plan. The city has initiated a 2015 Strategic Plan for completion in late 2014. Due to my extensive business background in strategic planning I will play an active council member’s role in the plan’s development, completion and implementation.

3. What is the one thing your city should start doing to encourage economic development and create jobs?

Meridian’s 2011 Citizen Survey places “attracting and retaining businesses” at the very top of our community’s overall budget priorities. Meridian has excelled in the retail sector, a low wage industry sector, which has benefited the city’s tax resources to cover its infrastructure expansion cost but may have a major future impact on Meridian’s family life. In short, living wages produce and support communities with a strong family outlook.

Our city has the tools/ability to insure that. It takes a community focus that is all-inclusive, collaborative and has a “success for all” directive. It’s about creating a community of businesses/organizations that are innovation driven and that produce sustainable livable wages. It requires strong and proactive community leadership that is aggressive in its pursuit of a building a sustainable family focused community that is structured on employment opportunities that provide livable wages.

4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now? How should it change?

According to Citistates associates, Meridian is well situated to become a leading city in the Treasure Valley — perhaps the leading city — by envision its future through the prism of community innovation. Hopefully, the city also will develop its reputation for seeking innovative business development that provides a living wage ladder towards a prosperous economic ecology.

Meridian leaders have been constantly examining a branding or vision for the city’s future. The Dairy City really does not stand for what Meridian is today, but what if Meridian were to re-imagine its future by looking through the funnel of its core strengths and the region’s vast natural amenities? Meridian is surrounded by parks, city pathways/trails, nature, wilderness/wildlife and the great Idaho outdoors.

What if Meridian began to imagine, and then make real, a nature-rich city? Such thinking may sound far-fetched, but we Idahoans like to think big. Meridian: City of Parks!

5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get more people involved?

Voter apathy in our community exists because voters want instant gratification. We are a results-oriented society and we want answers to all questions and issues answered immediately, after all it’s the Age of Social Media and Text Messaging. Democracy is not that simple though.

Why people in our community don’t go to the polls is anybody’s guess but there are reasons why apathy exists in our community coupled with our tendency to want instant gratification. For the past three years I have worked in my precinct as a voter election staff member, and the fact is that my neighbors don’t vote. Disappointing, yes, but I understand their frustration with their feeling that they have no impact on the outcome of the political process.

Participation in democracy requires understanding, research and thought. Voting is not something you do because you can. It is a right and responsibility of shared power between those who lead and those who are led.

6. Meridian is poised to become the city's second largest city. How do you embrace growth and expansion and still maintain your small-town, family-oriented values?

This past month marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I have a dream" speech. What relevance can be extracted for Meridian’s future?

I, too, have a dream that what made America great will make Meridian great, that superb schools, inspired community organizations, exceptional community leadership and vision, a constant evolving ladder of economic employment opportunities, and our community putting its family way of life above everything else will lift our community’s future and preserve the greatness of Meridian and America!

City leadership must find family centered solutions to these pressing issues:

• Providing a clear long-term strategic vision and plan.

• Developing and maintain a strong local economy that anticipates economic cycles.

• Strategic planning for future population growth.

• Develop and maintain a strong family sustainable employment economic ecology.

Achieving these criteria are key elements to Meridian’s future.

7. What are the top two issues facing Meridian, and how should they be addressed?

We live in a complex, ever changing new economic/technology driven world that’s extremely difficult to keep up with. We are faced everyday with our children’s educational future and so too should our community leaders be committed to improving their knowledge base.

Our community leaders need to enhance their knowledge and skills in guiding our community’s towards a 2040 Meridian, that includes establishing measurable performance goals in meeting family sustainable employment opportunities, meeting revenues and expenditures budgets that reflect a vibrant community, a strategic financial budgeting plan, maintaining an external resource mobilization plan, and implementing strategic operational/objective planning for a 2040 Meridian.

These issues are core to Meridian’s future and require a city council that is educated, experienced and well informed on long-term strategic municipal policy strategies. That takes a council that must be engaged in a wide sweeping, high level, and deep knowledge acquisition quest to guide the future of Meridian.

8. If tax revenues take an upswing in the next few years, which part of city government do you think most needs an infusion of cash, and why?

The key words in Meridian’s leadership must be “fiscal conservatism, vision and achieving measurable meaningful results based on our city developing a long-term strategic plan” — period!

So how does Meridian reduce and control, before they get out of hand, the challenges they know they’ll be facing in the foreseeable future? Vision, innovation, achieving measurable meaningful results and prevention must become the city’s magic words.

Meridian’s long-term vision and plan will need to devise numerous ingenious sets of evolving preventive and curative measures for its future growth. Meridian will need city leadership that has a vision for our community’s future.

9. If more budget tightening is needed, where would you look first for cuts? Why?

Meridian can gain great insight into its future by not following the same steps that has led to the city of Detroit's $18 billion bankruptcy:

• A community's economic engines have to be constantly maintained. Lesson: The economic term of Creative Destruction evolved in Detroit by it's community leaders not focusing on a future in which globalization and technology was a major part of its economic development.

• A need for the utmost integrity in its city government. Lesson: Detroit is a city that lost its political responsibility by its elected officials.

• A city that makes too big of promises to workers and borrows too much money for unsuccessful community projects.

Lesson: Detroit is now a city that has $18 billion in liabilities.

This is a new world economy that is inserting forces at the local level and community leaders need to think long-term strategically and not just operationally.

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