Milam, Cavener tout personal outreach for Meridian City Council wins

The new council members want to be a voice for young families and small businesses.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comNovember 7, 2013 

Everyone told Genesis Milam that the race for one of the two new seats on the Meridian City Council would be close. It came down to 35 votes.

Milam was one of six people vying for Seat 5. Also making a bid for the seat was Ty Palmer, 25-year-old son of Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian. Ty Palmer’s political experience included serving as Virginia digital director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

“Nobody wanted to run against Ty. We knew it was going to be a tough race,” said Milam, a 40-year-old former business owner who is now a business consultant. “He’s very involved in the Republican Party.”

Milam is also a Republican, but said she didn’t put that on her campaign signs because the council race is non-partisan.

Milam received 1,635 votes (31.9 percent) — edging out Palmer, who received 1,600 (31.2 percent). She’s the first woman elected to the Meridian City Council since Cherie McCandless was elected in 1999. (Christine Donnell was appointed in October 2004.)

Milam said she worked extra hard during the past couple weeks — knocking on doors and writing personal notes to voters who requested absentee ballots.

“My husband licked the envelopes, and my 5-year-old son put on the stamps,” she said. Her son and 16-year-old daughter sometimes joined her in canvassing.

Milam was endorsed by Mayor Tammy de Weerd and the current council members.

“I think it helped a lot,” said Milam. “I had already been working hard by the time that came out.”

One of the main reasons Milam ran for public office was to find new ways to help support small businesses, and that’s what she plans to focus on first.

“Are there ways I can help improve the whole start-up process ... getting permits to renovate,” she said. “I want to be a liaison to help small businesses.”

The race for the other new seat, No. 6, also was close. Five of the six candidates received at least 14 percent of the vote.

Luke Cavener got 45 votes more than Shaun Wardle and won the seat with 24.7 percent of the vote.

“I expected it to be close, but it was obviously closer than anyone expected,” Cavener said.

His campaign strategy was to knock on as many doors as possible and talk to people in their living rooms.

He said many invited him in for extended discussions.

“To me, that was the best part,” said Cavener, a public relations and marketing specialist. “I did more door-knocking and connecting with people than any of my opponents.”

He made extra effort to talk to people who requested absentee ballots.

“They were definitely people who were going to vote. I wanted them to be sure they knew who I was and what I stood for,” Cavener said.

Cavener, a 32-year-old with a 6-year-old child, will be the youngest member of the council. He said he’ll bring the perspective of the city’s young families.

“This shows our community is looking for different points of view,” Cavener said. “We had more options and more choices, and it was great that our community was able to say, ‘This is what I want.’ ”

Meridian voters opted to diversify their council at the same time as they re-elected Keith Bird, who has served 16 years and is now the longest-serving councilman in the city’s history. Attorney Joe Borton, who has previously served on the council, was elected to Seat 2.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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