Boise & Garden City

Boise could have its first elected female mayor if this city official unseats Bieter

Council President Lauren McLean tells why she supports moving The Cabin to Julia Davis Park, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Boise City Council. Mayor Dave Bieter listens.
Council President Lauren McLean tells why she supports moving The Cabin to Julia Davis Park, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Boise City Council. Mayor Dave Bieter listens.

Lauren McLean announced she will enter the race to become the next mayor of Boise on Monday, a direct challenge to Mayor David Bieter’s attempt to win a fifth consecutive term.

If she wins, she will unseat Bieter after 16 years and will be the first regularly elected female mayor of Boise.

Carolyn Terteling-Payne was appointed mayor in 2003 after Brent Coles resigned from the job the same day the state attorney general filed two corruption charges against him, but she did not run for election the following year. Bieter won his bid for mayor in November of that year and has been mayor since 2004.

“Too many folks are feeling priced out, talked over, left out or forgotten, and that should worry us all,” McLean, 44, said in a news release. “They want their leaders to be transparent, set aside old grudges, and get serious about bold action to make every Boisean’s life better. That’s why I’m running.”

The release, which does not mention Bieter by name but instead refers to “the current 16-year incumbent,” went on to say that while the city has come a long way during Bieter’s four terms, people are frustrated with the effect of growth on the city, including skyrocketing housing costs.

McLean has been on the council since 2011 and has served as its president for the past two years. She’s been on a “city-wide listening tour” as part of that job, and she said in her release that she’s heard people want city leaders to be more accessible and transparent.

“That’s a problem, particularly at this moment when we need everyone to be involved in planning the future of our community,” McLean said in the release. “That’s the kind of mayor I will be: transparent, accessible, and open to working with everyone in Boise.”

In a phone interview Monday, McLean told the Statesman that she plans to specifically focus on asking “what else we haven’t tried yet” when looking at issues facing the city, such as traffic and affordability.

“We’re going to have to look back at our history to imagine our future,” she said.

McLean, who holds a master’s degree in environmental policy from Boise State University, has made sustainability a major element of her time on the council. She pushed for the council to vote for 100 percent clean electric energy in homes and businesses by 2035 and has supported other conservation efforts.

Being elected to the council was not her first time in Boise politics, however. According to her City Council campaign website, she worked as the campaign manager of the Boise Foothills Open Space campaign in 2001.

In addition to the mayor’s race, there are three City Council seats up for grabs. With McLean opting to run for mayor and Scot Ludwig choosing not to seek re-election, next year’s City Council could look very different. McLean said in an interview Monday that there are a lot of great leaders in Boise that are starting to step forward and that she welcomes new people into the political sphere.

Other people in the mayoral race include Matt Kilburn, who is running to be Idaho’s first openly gay mayor, and Adriel J. Martinez, a veteran who ran for City Council in previous elections.

Several members of Boise City Council already have expressed support for Bieter, who announced his campaign two weeks ago. Councilmember TJ Thomson told the Statesman that Bieter was “unquestionably the best person to run the city at this time,” while Bieter’s campaign Twitter account lists an endorsement from Councilmember Holli Woodings.

McLean acknowledged in the interview that it could be uncomfortable to sit next to the mayor at Boise City Council meetings leading up to the election, but she said she plans “to leave electoral politics at the door.”

“My plan is to focus on the job I’m in now,” she said. “Sometimes you need to be a little uncomfortable in order to get things done and make real change.”

The election is set for Nov. 5.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.