She may have the best office location in Boise. When Julia Kertz Grant took over as Foothills and Open Space manager for the City of Boise last month, she moved in to the Foothills Learning Center office site, at the Eighth Street trailhead for the Boise Foothills area.
Grant, who moved to Boise six years ago, took over from Paul Woods, who won election to the Ada County Board of Commissioners last November. Her job is to preside over the management of Boise's cherished foothills, and to direct future allocations of the money from the 2001 Serial Levy, which raised millions of dollars for Foothills protection. She also presides over a land swap that will protect 5,000 acres of Foothills land.
On a recent sunny afternoon, while hikers and mountain bikers rolled by the Foothills Learning Center location, Grant told BW what it means to be a "coalition builder" and how her job can make the average hike a little bit like work.
How in the world do you get anything done with an office in this location?
Well, I think it would be much harder if my office window faced [the trails]. It can be hard to stay focused.
You have a political science degree, as well as a forestry degree.
The whole natural resource arena is so laden with politics and policy. Yes, you have the science. But then you have the human influence on how science can be implemented on the ground. That's where I feel like all my areas come to a head.
Your bio says one of your expertise areas is "coalition building." Tell me what you mean by that.
My job is to see what the citizens want, and then figure out how to make that work with all the agencies we work with, the private landowners who own land in the Foothills, and the different interest groups. It's walking a fine line all the time.
But there are always commonalities. You find those and work with those.
Update us on the legislation that will allow for this Foothills land swap.
It was passed and signed [late last year.] Now we have 180 days to make it actually happen. The closing date is May 25. Our [2001 Serial Levy Fund] is paying for all this. As a ballpark figure, it will cost between $700,000 to $1 million.
That, to me, is a huge bargain. To know that you've protected close to 5,000 acres of land with that much money.
Did Woods give you any particular advice when you started?
In his new position, he was just super busy. It was really hard, in my first few weeks here. I had to go through all the files here to find answers because I couldn't get ahold of Paul. Fortunately, we met on a Saturday to go through my laundry list of questions.
Case in point: People were talking about this particular property. Everybody referred to it by this particular name. I went through the whole file, and I could not find a file under this name. I had no idea what it was. When Paul came in, he just pulled out a file and said, it was originally under an old family name, so people still use that.
What is the most common question you get asked by the public?
How much money do we have left? Where's it going?
OK, I'll bite: How much money do we have left in the serial levy fund?
In the $4 million range.
But there's projects going on right now. That money could be used up if some of these things come to fruition. But it's not going to happen tomorrow, because these things take a long time.
When the five-year anniversary of the serial levy came up, there was some talk among people who wondered if we'd need to do that again, to raise more money. Do you hear that?
I can tell you that we hear rumblings from different groups about the need for that. Maybe not just within Boise, but also, other communities are asking us about that. And not just here in the Treasure Valley, but in other places around the state.
Do you look at the Foothills a different way when you're out hiking now?
I do. But as someone who's been in natural resource management, I've always looked at trails and users in a different manner.
Sometimes you get really frustrated, because you see new establishment of a noxious weed that wasn't there before. You wonder how that got there, and can it be controlled? So you get distracted from just enjoying your bike ride or your run.