Canyon County

Nampa mayor ousted, Debbie Kling takes the lead with focus on economic development

Debbie Kling won Tuesday’s election, defeating incumbent Nampa Mayor Bob Henry.
Debbie Kling won Tuesday’s election, defeating incumbent Nampa Mayor Bob Henry.

Nampa Chamber of Commerce CEO Debbie Kling took more than half of Tuesday’s votes, ousting Bob Henry from his seat as Nampa’s mayor.

Kling earned 3,680 votes — 53 percent of the vote — while Henry earned 2,759 votes, or 40 percent. Melissa Sue Robinson trailed behind with 473 votes, about 7 percent.

“I look forward to convening the people of our community and drawing upon the wealth of knowledge we have in our current citizen base,” Kling said Wednesday.

Among her priorities in the new role are street repair, snow removal, economic development and reducing taxes for residents in poverty.

Kling is only the second woman to be elected as Nampa’s mayor. The first was Maxine Horn, who was elected in 1998 and served a four-year term.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I feel like it’s an honor to be the second (female) mayor. For me, it isn’t an issue of being a man or woman, it’s about who is most qualified.”

Henry will leave his seat after only one term as mayor. Prior to being mayor, Henry spent two years as a Nampa City Council member.

“The loss is disappointing, but the people spoke and Debbie fought hard for the mayor’s seat,” Henry said in a written statement Wednesday. “Four years ago, I ran on the pledge to lower the property tax levy rate, reduce the Ford Idaho Center subsidy and rein in Urban Renewal. With the help of the City Council, we’ve done that. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, and I will make sure the new administration has a smooth transition into office.”

As mayor, Kling anticipates the biggest challenge will be the volume of issues the city faces.

“It’s not just one issue,” she said. “… This is like turning a ship, not turning a speedboat. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.”

When it comes to issues such as snow removal, Kling said she hopes to meet with city staff as soon as possible, just in case this winter rivals last winter.

She said she wants to meet with the local highway district and city public works to evaluate options and look for inconsistencies between the two.

Kling noted that when she was visiting nursing home facilities during her campaign, employees told her they had trouble getting to work in the winter due to snow-blocked roads.

“Those are care providers in those facilities,” she said. “(So) we have entire senior centers that don’t have adequate staffing (in the winter).”

Because of the significant poverty level in Nampa, Kling said she is also concerned about the lack of affordable housing and the high tax rate. Moving forward with a plan for economic development and a strategy to bring more businesses to Nampa will be one key for long-term success in reducing taxes, she said.

Addressing the generational poverty in Nampa, however, is something Kling said will take collaboration between the city, public agencies, nonprofits, churches and other city leaders.

Downtown coordinator Morgan Treasure, of the Downtown Nampa Association, said Kling was instrumental as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and she believes Kling will continue to be beneficial to the Association in her leadership role.

“Debbie has always been a champion for downtown,” Treasure said. “ I knew that about her before I was in this role.”

Treasure said the Downtown Business Improvement District is excited to work with Kling as they continue to build relationships between downtown merchants, the city of Nampa and the Main Street program at the state.

Nampa is one of three cities in Idaho that is a part of the Main Street program, which is a program that works to revitalize downtown areas.

Kling will be sworn into office in January and will step down as CEO of the Chamber. She said that after the job is posted, the Chamber will hopefully have a replacement by the end of the year.

In Nampa, the mayor gets paid about $81,000 a year and serves a four-year term.

Henry bowed out gracefully on Wednesday.

“It’s been a privilege to work with such great directors and employees,” Henry said in his statement. “Getting to know them will be probably the most memorable takeaway after the four years. Nampa taxpayers are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of people working for them, and I know this will continue.”