Mayor David Bieter is disappointed.
He won his first election in 2003 to lead a Boise recovering from scandal after former Mayor Brent Coles and two other city employees went to jail for misusing public money.
“The first order of business was to restore faith and confidence in City Hall,” Bieter said in an interview. “That took multiple years.”
With the help of an ethics commission and some “smart appointments,” he said, Boiseans began to trust their city government once again. He won re-election in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
One of the people he appointed was Lauren McLean. Bieter chose her in 2010 to replace Vern Bisterfeldt after Bisterfeldt was elected to the Ada County Commission.
It wasn’t McLean’s first foray into Boise politics. She had served on the Boise Parks Commission, managed the Foothills Open Space Initiative in 2001, and was on the city Planning and Zoning Commission when her appointment was announced. McLean won her first council election in 2011 and kept her seat in 2015. In 2017, her colleagues elected her council president.
McLean, Bieter and the rest of the council worked together to create what Bieter called a “collaborative process” to make things run smoothly.
That’s why Bieter wasn’t thrilled when McLean announced in May that she would challenge the mayor for his seat and give up her position on the council.
“It’s disappointing,” Bieter said. “I’ll be candid about that.”
He said he was not completely surprised. McLean’s challenge reflects the “lay of the land,” Bieter said, particularly as this isn’t the first time a council member has challenged him.
Jim Tibbs, elected to the council in 2006, challenged Bieter during the mayor’s first re-election bid in 2007. Tibbs was a longtime Boise Police Department officer who had risen to acting chief when Bieter passed him over for the chief’s job in 2004. Bieter won the 2007 race overwhelmingly.
Bieter’s almost 16 years in office make him the longest-serving mayor of Boise, but he says he’s not done.
“I’ve said in the past that I needed a food tester because council members want to replace you,” Bieter said. “It’s a very common thing. It happens to mayors quite regularly.”
He said he doesn’t take such challenges personally, which is probably for the best — in the months leading up to November, Bieter and McLean will have to continue working together in their respective roles. After all, they sit next to each other at every council meeting.
McLean said after announcing her campaign in May that she anticipated her decision might make things a little uncomfortable between herself and the mayor.
“Sometimes you need to be a little uncomfortable in order to get things done and make real change,” McLean told the Statesman in a phone interview.
In the meantime, she said she plans to “leave electoral politics at the door” and instead focus on the job she has.
Bieter said the challenge doesn’t make things weird between them. After so many years as a politician, he says he has a thick skin.
“I will be professional, my staff will be professional,” Bieter said. “I expect that she will too.”
This article has revised to correct Jim Tibbs’ role in the Boise Police Department. He was an officer.