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Mayor of fast-growing city in Idaho talks about priorities for 2024

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Mayors from across the country are in Washington, D.C., this week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting. They're sharing their priorities with lawmakers and the Biden administration. And here at MORNING EDITION, we've used it as an opportunity to spend the week speaking to different mayors from across the country about their goals for their cities. Today, Jarom Wagoner is in studio with me. He's a Republican and the mayor of Caldwell, Idaho. It's a suburb of Boise and is home to about 65,000 people. Good morning, Mayor, and thanks for being here.

JAROM WAGONER: Good morning. Thank you for inviting me.

FADEL: So, Caldwell - for people who don't know, it's one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Your background is in city planning. How do you think about how to accommodate growth in your city?

WAGONER: Yeah, and that's true. That's - you know, one of the biggest issues that we have is how do we accommodate that? As you mentioned, we are one of the fastest-growing cities in the country...

FADEL: Yeah.

WAGONER: ...Seeing just a huge influx of people coming in, and so really rely on that background, as you mentioned. You know, I'm a former planner, and so it's a great time to have a planner at the helm...

FADEL: Yes.

WAGONER: ...Leading the city of Caldwell. And so we really want to incorporate - you know, be a very welcoming city to those coming in, providing the necessary infrastructure for those needs. You know, transportation is huge, you know, streets and things of that nature, so just relying on that background and the understanding of, you know, growth is good, but it does need to be managed and controlled in a way that's benefit for everybody in the community.

FADEL: So how do you do that? I mean, you've been in office for two years now. This sounds like one of your top priorities, if you could spell out a little bit the priorities you came in with and how you actually accomplish things like accommodating growth in a positive way for your city.

WAGONER: Yeah. And, you know, one of the top priorities was, you know, Caldwell has always been a wonderful community.

FADEL: Yeah.

WAGONER: And people love to be there. And there's a lot of people that have lived there for a long time, such as myself. And so, you know, it's how do you, you know, do that flux between the people coming in that want to be there and the ones that maybe don't want to see it grow as much as it has? And so it's a delicate balance between those two, but just providing, you know, the wonderful community is continuing with that kind of that - you know, that down-home feel that you have when you come to Caldwell and maintaining that. And it truly is possible, regardless of the population that you have. Creating community centers, little places for people to go and feel like, you know, they know the people that are there - that's an important part. When you're going through downtown, you see somebody you know. You can say, hi, whether it's shop owner or somebody visiting or down doing whatever it may be. That just helps create that sense of community. And that's what we try to strive to maintain throughout how much growth we've had.

FADEL: Now, you're in D.C. meeting with people in the Biden administration, lawmakers. What are you asking of them to help with the priorities you've laid out here for your city, for your residents?

WAGONER: Yeah. You know, one of the big priorities that I have as well is with our youth, you know, our growing generation. You know, they're the ones that are going to be leading us in the future. And there are some great programs out there. I know one of the ones that I'm proud to be a part of is the Mayors Alliance to End Childhood Hunger. So that's important for that. And then another is the TRIO Program that helps provide, you know, federal funding for those programs for high schools to help kids to go on to college, those first-generation students that their parents didn't have the opportunity to go to college. And that comes a lot from that federal funding. So those are really important parts, you know, of my program, of what I want to do as a mayor, is give those opportunities to, you know, those kids that didn't in the past and to make sure that they can be successful for the future.

FADEL: Now, this is an election year, and you're here speaking to an administration that may be the same come - upcoming or not. Whatever administration does take office, as Caldwell's mayor, what do you think about for continuity to think about the federal government in helping your city accomplish its goals, including what you just described?

WAGONER: Yeah. And I think it's - you know, the relationships is really important. That's a big part of, you know, being here for this, for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and, you know, making sure that we have that open dialogue between the city and the federal government. Sometimes you have that disconnect 'cause you have that - the state right in between that sometimes misses the locals. But, you know, nothing hits the road like - the rubber to the road like a local government. And so making sure we keep those connections there, whoever is in office at that federal level, you know, regardless of the president, we're still going to have, you know, our state representative - or state legislators, our federal legislators working towards those goals. So maintaining that relationship, I think, is really key so they understand and know the needs of a community like Caldwell.

FADEL: That's Jarom Wagoner, mayor of Caldwell, Idaho. Thank you so much.

WAGONER: Thank you again. Appreciate it.

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