Boise Mayor Dave Bieter is a true hometown boy. Born and raised in Boise, Bieter spent time in the Idaho State Legislature before setting up shop in the Mayor's Office after a come-from-behind victory in his first campaign.
Now in a rare third term in office, Bieter remains Boise's head cheerleader and well known personality who rides his bike to work, champions public transit and proudly wears the distinction of being the only mayor in the United States to be an ethnic Basque.
If you come across someone who doesn't know anything about Boise, how do you describe this place?
I usually start off geographically because their notions of Boise are often wrong if they have any at all. They think it's Midwestern. ... Then I'll talk about the outdoors and quick in there I'll put a Basque plug ... talk about the tech industry in particular because I think they don't understand that we have a pretty big tech sector here. And then Boise State if they don't bring it up.
Where do you see Boise in 20 years?
I think we could add 100,000 [residents] easily. ... I think the challenge is going to be can we grow up, literally in some ways and mature in another. A public transit system that's really working well, that connects well and drives the land-use patterns some ... that can help encourage a more compact development pattern, which is going to be huge to maintain what we like here.
But I've lived here long enough now and am old enough now to have seen--I don't know if people talk about it as much--the benefits of growth compared to when I was growing up here are considerable. Hyde Park was not a cool place when I was growing up. I'm old enough now I've seen downtown be the center of things, be really hurt, then come back well. Growth has, at least in part, done that for us.
What are the challenges that Boise is going to face as we continue to grow?
The pattern of Western cities unfortunately most of the time has been a sprawling, land-consuming, energy-consuming pattern. I think that's going to be challenging. It already is. From my standpoint, the upside of the down economy has been some of the worst conceived of that kind of project, especially residential project, they haven't done well in this economy. That's tough on a lot of people, but I think that will counteract the inclination to build that way. ... I think economically, the biggest change from when I grew up here are the anchor, big corporations have either changed or aren't present, and I think that alone has been a challenge and will continue to be. I think the upside of that is we're less dependent on the few big employers and more diverse.
What project has you most excited?
I think the river recreation park is a real success. ... It's a great bookend to the core of Boise to have such an amenity right downtown. I think it's going to cause some real good development right in that area, where it's either not used or under-used. ... I may have to take up kayaking so I can use it, because I think it's going to be that kind of excitement about it.
What's your favorite childhood memory about growing up in Boise?
I had a great time growing up here. I think you'd say an idyllic childhood is not an overstatement. ... We spent hours and hours on the river. That's one of the things, to tell you the truth, I have the hardest time with. We used to be able to bridge surf--tie a rope to a bridge, tie a board to the end of the rope--and spend hours of free entertainment. Before I got here it was made illegal. I'm trying to find a place were that can be allowed. We used to jump off bridges and all that kind of stuff and I'm really leery to see that not be allowed. ... I hate to see us lose that free, summer entertainment.
The seasons were always good to you. I always remember the spring and summer days were just for a kid. ... I just remember a lot of unsupervised, in a lot of cases, just fun.
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