Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, who has led Idaho’s second-largest city through swift growth, says she will not run for a fifth term this November. At least two people already plan to run to succeed her.
De Weerd announced her decision Wednesday at her annual State of the City speech.
“It’s time to focus on my family,” De Weerd, 59, said in an interview with media after the speech. “My Meridian family will always be there, and they will succeed without me.”
Meridian had nearly 40,000 people when De Weerd, then the City Council president, won the nonpartisan mayor’s job in the November 2003 election. Today it has more than 100,000. Except for the recession-induced halt from 2008 until 2011, her tenure has been marked by an endless series of new subdivisions accented by new businesses, most notably the Village at Meridian, the $300 million retail center that opened in 2013.
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Already, candidates are emerging to take her place. Several sources told the Idaho Statesman that De Weerd’s chief of staff, Robert Simison, 45, will run for mayor. A fundraiser for Simison was held earlier Wednesday, said Josh Evarts, a Meridian developer.
Neither Simison nor De Weerd would confirm those reports. “Today is the mayor’s day,” Simison told the Statesman.
Simison has served as chief of staff since 2007. For 10 years before that, he worked on the staff of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. In 2012, he lost a Republican primary election race for an Idaho House seat representing south Meridian’s District 21.
“The big question tonight was, ‘If not Mayor Tammy, then who?’” Little Roberts said.
Now, De Weerd is looking to her 10 remaining months as mayor. She said she will focus on realizing some of the projects started downtown, such as a mixed-use development expected to bring 103 new apartments there.
“A strong foundation has been laid by former councils and the current council to continue to move Meridian forward,” she said.
De Weerd said she is proud of her work in making the budgeting process more efficient and leading training sessions with city employees.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s emotional,” she said. “I’m trying to still hold it together.”
De Weerd said her father’s death last year forced her to reconsider her priorities. She said she hopes she will be able to spend time with her mother as well as her children and grandchildren.
De Weerd, a fourth-generation Idahoan, had been the City Council president when she won the mayor’s race in November 2003. She was the first president of the Meridian Parks and Recreation Commission and served two years on the Planning and Zoning Commission before winning a seat on the council in 1999. She defeated Keith Bird, who died Friday, in the 2003 election and won re-election three times by wide margins.
The city added several parks, boosted its police department and added more private-sector jobs as De Weerd sought to make what was once a small dairy-farming town something more than a bedroom suburb of Boise. She pressed for redevelopment of Meridian’s downtown with mixed success, including the opening in 2008 of a three-story, 100,000-square-foot city hall.
A mother of four, she promoted Meridian as family-friendly and advocated for youth programs. The city was recognized by CNN/Money as one of the nation’s 100 Best Places to Live and by Family Circle magazine as one of the 10 Best Cities for Families.
Despite her long tenure, many Meridian residents still have trouble pronouncing her name because of its troublesome W. It is pronounced deh-VEERD, as in a car that veers — not deh-WEIRD.
“Today, I really want to celebrate the state of Meridian,” De Weerd said. “I have 10 months. I still have work to be done.”