This will be Tammy de Weerd’s last year as mayor of Meridian.
At her 16th State of the City address on Wednesday, De Weerd, mayor of Meridian since January 2004, announced she will not seek a fifth term.
“This was a very personal decision and one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made,” De Weerd said in an email to city employees Wednesday. “After losing my dad this last fall, I questioned my decision to run for re-election up through the holidays.
“Being able to spend time with my mom, my kids and their families, and in talking with my husband I knew what that ‘next chapter’ would and should be,” she said. “It’s time that I focus on them.”
During the State of the City, De Weerd also discussed several of Meridian’s achievements over the last year, such as breaking ground on a new regional park and attracting new housing and businesses to Ten Mile Crossing and downtown. The city also saw the opening of the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, a private medical school, and was selected for a federal “Opportunity Zone” incentives program.
De Weerd would have been up for re-election this November. She plans to serve out the rest of her term through January.
De Weerd also spoke about the city’s plan to complete the Comprehensive Plan update.
DE WEERD’S TIME IN OFFICE
De Weerd, 59, got involved in Meridian city government over two decades ago as the first president and a charter member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, according to the city’s website. She then served two years on the Planning and Zoning Commission and, elected in 1999, served on City Council for four years.
During De Weerd’s tenure as mayor, Meridian has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The city’s population tripled from 2000 to 2018 — from an estimated 35,000 to 106,000, according to estimates by the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho. The city itself employs over 480 people.
Much of De Weerd’s emphasis has been on youth and families. When she started as mayor, Meridian had just one park; now it has 23. De Weerd founded the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council and helped lead efforts to grow the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Meridian.
De Weerd and her husband, Jan, have four children and several grandchildren.
“Being the mayor of Meridian has been the highest honor I could imagine,” De Weerd said in the email to city staff. “Serving alongside all of you, our leadership team, city council members, our city volunteers, has been so rewarding — beyond expectations. We are guided by the Meridian Way and I’m amazed each and every day by the service all of you give to this community — and how well you all work together as a team.
“This is not the end,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us this year and I’m excited to continue working with each of you. 2019 will be our best year yet.”
The city is currently wrapping up roundtable discussions about the comprehensive plan focused on economic development, transportation and housing.
The update began last May, and the city plans to complete it this fall.
De Weerd said the update is needed years ahead of schedule due to Meridian’s significant growth.
The first phase of Meridian’s third regional park, Discovery Park, is expected to open this summer. The first phase is 27 acres of the full 77 acres, located on the south side of Lake Hazel Road between Locust Grove and Eagle roads.
Future plans for the park include sand and water play, dual zip lines, a climbing wall that’s a map of Idaho, softball fields and an off-leash dog area.
TEN MILE CROSSING
During her speech, De Weerd highlighted new businesses locating to Meridian, bringing more jobs closer to where people live.
One example was Ten Mile Crossing. The development off Interstate 84 and Ten Mile Road saw recent openings of Paylocity, AmeriBen and Horrocks Engineers, with more businesses and housing to come, including a new headquarters for Brighton Corporation.
Kristin Armstrong’s Pivot Lifestyle and Fitness and the Saltzer Medical Group headquarters, as well as the first hotel for the development, a Marriott, will open in Ten Mile Crossing in 2019, De Weerd said.
De Weerd also mentioned the plans for two four-story buildings with residential, retail and office space on the square block across from Meridian City Hall.
In August, City Council and the city’s urban renewal agency, the Meridian Development Corporation, approved local businessman Joshua Evarts’s plan for the project.
The groundbreaking is set for this spring. Construction could be completed by the end of 2020. The city and urban renewal agency plan to transfer the old City Hall property, where New Ventures is located, to Evarts for $565,000 at the end of February.
Plans call for 103 residential units and about 16,000 square feet of retail and office space, De Weerd said.
Also in Downtown Meridian is a new opportunity zone — a zone created by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in certain census tract areas.
Opportunity zones provide a tax incentive for investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains into opportunity funds.
“These dedicated investments can either defer or eliminate capital gains taxes,” De Weerd said. “Bottom line: Invest in the future of our community and pay less in taxes.”
Last year the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, or ICOM, opened its doors for its first class of roughly 160 students.
“Now, when you talk about health and science opportunities in our valley we had a ‘game changer’ open its doors this last August,” De Weerd said.
ICOM has already received nearly 3,000 applications for next year, she said.
The college recently received formal occupancy for its research lab, providing access to exploring cutting-edge research, De Weerd said.
“Students now have research opportunities involving the biomedical sciences, clinical trials, patient care and medical education through a variety of avenues,” she said.
TRANSPARENCY AND EASY ACCESS
De Weerd highlighted new processes including the ability for citizens to sign up online to testify at public hearings, sign up for notifications on certain developments and view interactive development maps on the city’s website.
“There is so much I could share when it comes to what our employees are doing, all of which make for a great Meridian,” De Weerd said. “We are committed to system improvements and efficiencies to better serve you.”