Editor’s note: This is the final in a three-part series featuring outgoing members of the Payette City Council.
She didn’t initially intend to serve on the Payette City Council. But when given the chance to do so Kathy Dodson, owner of Thurston’s Bar in downtown Payette, decided to take a shot at it.
Having served on the council on two separate occasions, Dodson shared her experience with the newspaper on Jan. 8.
Dodson started exploring ways to get her neighborhood represented when it was first became a part of Payette.
“In my neighborhood, taxes are extremely high,” Dodson said. “We … got annexed into the city, so I was curious to know where the money was going. As soon as I knew there was an opening, I tried to talk my neighbor into getting down there and being a city councilor. He didn’t want to do it, so I was called by the vetting committee and met with them, and then I was chosen … for the appointment.”
After served an appointed two-year term from 2010-2011, Dodson decided her glass was still half-empty and ran for a four year term in 2015.”
Feeling like her glass was still only half-full, Dodson decided to run for a full term in 2015. What stuck with Dodson was the lack of voting districts in the city of Payette.
“Everybody that was on the council, and the mayor, all lived within a couple-of-block area. There was no representation of my neighborhood, and I felt like we needed some representation.”
Among the accomplishments that made her feel her glass was full were:
- Paying it forward with the “Neighbors helping Neighbors” program, where Payette ratepayers can make a donation through their water bill to Western Idaho Community Action Partnership, which in turn helps neighbors struggling to pay their water bills.
“So far, WICAP has told me that every time they have contacted the city with someone’s water bill that they had the money, every time. People are contributing to that.”
- Following through with the City Center Plan of 1985 to revitalize downtown Payette, especially since U.S. Highway 95 was re-routed around downtown. Part of this involved posting of directional signs which show people how to get to downtown.
“We are a city that’s been bypassed by the highway,” Dodson noted. “We had a vibrant downtown, all the storefronts were full, and then people have told me that’ve kept records from that era that once the highway went around us that some people had a 50 percent drop in sales.”
Dodson has pushed for turning Bancroft Park into an event space as part of the revitalization.
- The kiosk at Bancroft Park, where folks can get information on downtown businesses through a city directory published under Dodson’s direction. She mentioned that every place to get a drink is listed.
- Developing a merchants committee
- Brought a farmers market to Payette in 2019
- Brought a 10,000 gallon fuel tank to the Payette Airport, supplementing an existing 3,000 gallon tank.
“Some councilors were opposed; the airport had always been a expense, and they thought fuel at the airport would just be another expense,” Dodson said. “Today, with the expanded runway and fuel, the airport is a “enterprise” fund. That means that the airport sells enough fuel to be a profit center for the city, or if not a profit, at least self supporting.”
- Passed an ordinance in 2016 requiring that nuisance buildings be addressed, with provisions for the city to address those if need be and place a lien on the building to cover such.
“If you don’t do anything about it, then the city supposedly will make those repairs,” Dodson said.
That said, Dodson does wish she could have gotten more consistent enforcement of ordinances on her flight. Mayor Jeff Williams has chosen not to enforce the nuisance building ordinance at this time, Dodson noted. She also said provisions to base sewer rate increases on the consumer price index have gone ignored in the most recent city budget.
“I said, ‘Well we give these blanket raises … [they] should be based on something,” Dodson said, saying a resolution passed to base the increases on the index went ignored. “You can’t make people … enforce something they don’t want to. We sure tried, though!”
Dodson also noted that one grant she helped write became what she viewed as much ado about nothing. The grant was to renovate a former Ford dealership building Dodson said hadn’t been updated since the 1940s, awarded to Barry N. Schroeder two years ago.
“I wrote a grant for BNS Enterprises, a façade grant, and it was a big deal that I helped him with that grant,” Dodson recalled. “I said, ‘If you’d like, I will not vote on it, but I don’t have a dog in that hunt.’”
Even after serving on the council, Dodson is not done serving the city. In addition to keeping Thurston’s going, she hopes to bring more events to Main Street so businesses’ cups can run over.
She also said she’s been approached, by a gentleman whom she did not identify, about writing a book.
“It’s a little bit historical, a little bit sci-fi,” Dodson said about the project. She did not give further details, as the project is still in planning.
Dodson’s advice to the new council is to learn everything they can to do their jobs better, especially in driving Payette’s economy.
“I would encourage new councilors to attend AIC (Association of Idaho Cities) classes and the Day at the Capital event that is also sponsored AIC. Particular classes to benefit Payette would be those on economic development.”
Dodson thanks the downtown merchants that gave her support throughout her service, her constituents and especially her husband Chuck.
Dodson also said that Thurston’s is the only place in Payette where one can get a Moscow Mule.