Within hours after Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd announced her retirement, two candidates emerged from within City Hall — and more may be on the way.
City Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts announced her entry into the race for mayor on Wednesday night in a tweet. Robert Simison, De Weerd’s chief of staff, did the same Thursday morning.
“I’ve always wondered what is next for me,” said Little Roberts, 58, who is serving her first term as a city councilwoman, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.
“Mayor Tammy has created so many great paths that I can see us continuing down,” she said. “There are some new avenues we need to look at, too.”
Little Roberts said she is proud of her work collaborating with downtown Meridian businesses on the split corridor, which routed northbound through traffic off Main Street and onto Meridian Road, one block west, leaving the downtown a more pedestrian area.
She said that as mayor, she would continue to collaborate with groups like the Meridian Downtown Business Association. She would also help to carry out the proposals illustrated in Meridian’s comprehensive plan, which is now undergoing revisions through a public process.
After De Weerd’s announcement Wednesday, Little Roberts said, “The big question tonight was, ‘If not Mayor Tammy, then who?’”
Little Roberts said she has been considering running for mayor for about two years, but she likely would not have run against De Weerd.
Between 2011 and 2017, Little Roberts served as CEO and president of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce. She was fired in August 2017, but said that she believed her dismissal violated the chamber’s bylaws and state law.
Simison, having never held an elected seat, has hinted he may make up for his lack of name recognition by campaigning on his experience.
“I have been listening to the citizens and working alongside the Mayor and community to implement Meridian’s vision,” Simison, 45, said in a news release. “I know and respect our employees, what is important to them to deliver quality services, and that I would have their trust to step in and continue to implement our vision.”
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.
Simison won the mayor’s endorsement, along with those of former councilmen Charlie Rountree, Brad Hoaglun, David Zaremba and the late Keith Bird. He indicated he would follow the vision of De Weerd, which he helped to shape as a member of the city’s senior leadership.
In a statement, De Weerd said, “Meridian is a community built on the importance of family. It is imperative that we stay focused on the family values we hold dear. Robert and I share these same values.”
Some developers are already backing Simison. On Wednesday morning, De Weerd and Simison appeared at an event hosted by developer and former gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist at the BVA offices at Ten Mile Creek, where Simison spoke. David Turnbull, owner of Brighton Corp., one of the Treasure Valley’s biggest developers, was also present. Both have supported De Weerd’s numerous reelection bids.
“Robert has been that quiet guy in the background getting things done,” Ahlquist said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re happy to support him.”
More candidates are expected to announce soon.
Councilman Ty Palmer told the Statesman that he will support another candidate who has yet to announce.
When asked if he would run, Councilman Treg Bernt wrote in an email to the Statesman, “I know there is a lot of interest for me to run... As of right now, I don’t see myself running. However, nothing is 100%…”
Councilmen Luke Cavener and Joe Borton also said they would not run this year. Councilwoman Genesis Milam did not respond to a request for comment.