A little more than a year after surviving a recall attempt, Coeur d’Alene’s first female mayor, Sandi Bloem, recently announced that after 12 years in office she won’t be seeking another term. Over those years, she’s seen the construction of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, outcry over the McEuen Field plan, and a recent spate of ugliness on the City Council.
In a wide-ranging phone conversation Monday, The Inlander talked with Bloem about what she’s leaving and what’s she learned.
Who influenced her: “The work with the Salvation Army — who I didn’t know much about before working with the Kroc Center truly changed my life. Watching the people I was able to work with in the [Salvation] Army, their dedication, their commitment to what they’re doing, their sacrifices of what they’ve made giving their lives to others.”
On why she’s leaving the mayor’s office for new unidentified opportunities: “If I want to make a change, I think now is the time to make it. I will be 71 at the end of this year. If I was to serve another term, I would be 75, and I’m not sure these opportunities would be there for me.”
What Bloem says a mayor needs: “It takes passion and commitment for something you really believe in. People will often say to me you have to be thick-skinned. I don’t like that term; it makes it seem as if you don’t care about people.”
On Coeur d’Alene’s success: “We have gone through a very, very tough economic time and managed to still move forward. We have experienced greater growth than almost any city in the nation, percentage-wise, and still held on to a good sense of place.”
On the McEuen Field controversy: “I believe that all of us knew that McEuen would be a project that would create a lot of emotion and passion. And it did. … I am disappointed in the behavior and the demeanor and the way things sometimes are said to each other. I think it’s too bad that we have people [who] can say, anonymously, some very hurtful things to others.”
Advice for any aspiring mayors out there: “If you truly want to serve your community and you’re passionate out there, then go for it. It can be an experience you will cherish forever. Some people will say that public service is not all it’s cracked up to be. [In reality] it’s more than it’s cracked up to be.”