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Huetter waits to fill mayor seat

by Alecia Warren
| November 25, 2010 8:00 PM

After two years, the city of Huetter is still waiting to have an official mayor.

But the town of 98, nestled between Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene, is taking it all in stride.

"It's part of the adventure of Huetter," said city Clerk Lang Sumner.

The small town has only had acting mayors at the helm since 2008, due to an ongoing legal battle over the position.

Brad Keene was elected mayor at the ripe age of 25 in November 2007. He was removed from office in early 2008, however, over concerns of his voter eligibility.

Newly elected council woman Jennifer Brown was removed for the same reason.

A district court ruled that both were ineligible to serve their terms because Kootenai County had kicked them off voter registration rolls earlier in the year. They were delisted for not responding in time to challenges of their Huetter residency.

But Keene reregistered only a few days after he was removed from the voter roll, said his attorney, Susan Weeks.

"The issue is, did the lapse in time between when he was canceled (and when he reregistered) disqualify him as mayor?" she said.

Keene filed an appeal of the District Court's decision that landed at the Idaho Supreme Court last year. It was predicted that a decision wouldn't come around for several months.

"We've been in limbo ever since," Keene said.

Concerned about the litigation, the city chose not to fill the mayor position in the meantime, Sumner said.

"If he (Keene) wins the case, that (new) mayor would have to be removed. It would have caused more grief than anything," Sumner said.

Instead, the City Council president has presided as acting mayor.

Currently, that's Keene.

Now 28, the car dealership employee was elected to a City Council seat last November.

"The court case could almost be moot at this point," Keene said of how he climbed back on top.

The council's other three positions are filled (Brown has moved and her seat was filled).

Jackie Meeks was acting mayor from 2008 to last year, when she was voted off the council.

Meeks, one of the individuals who had challenged Keene's residency, said the lack of mayor doesn't impair the city's government.

"Just because we are so small," she said of the town that has a budget of $70,000 this fiscal year. "It's not like we have a huge budget or anything like that."

She had valid reason to question Keene's residency, she added.

"I didn't know for sure if he lived here or not," she said. "Sometimes you see him and sometimes you don't."

John Whitaker, current City Council member, said going mayorless hamstrings the council, especially with the city chasing funding for an expensive new water system.

"It just makes it a lot harder, because you're down one person to help get everything accomplished," the first-term council member said.

Whitaker said Keene stays well informed and has performed well as acting mayor.

No residents have complained about the unfilled position, he added.

"Honestly the city of Huetter is not very driven," Whitaker said of the town with a large renter population. "To get the 26 people out to vote on election day (last year), we were out campaigning all day long, just walking in a circle around the block."

Keene doesn't know when to expect the Supreme Court decision.

"I haven't heard anything yet," he said.

If the District Court's decision is upheld, the mayoral seat will probably remain empty, Whitaker said.

"It would only be for a year," he said, adding that the mayor position and two council seats, including Keene's, are up for election next November.

If Keene is reinstated as mayor, Whitaker predicted, his old council seat would be empty until the next election, too.

"There's probably only two or three citizens who are even going to want the position," he said.

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