The first LDS mayor of Boise, the capital of Idaho and the state's largest city, was elected Nov. 2. But Brent Coles believes proper preparation, not religion, made the difference in his favor at the polls.
"We're a community that prides itself in diversity and acceptance of all religions, races, creeds, colors, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds," the newly elected mayor said in a telephone interview with the Church News.Brother Coles served as interim mayor for 10 months before his election. He had been chosen by fellow members of the Boise City Council to finish the term of Dirk Kempthorne, who was elected to the U.S. Senate.
He faced a formidable foe in the mayoral election - Tracy Andrus, daughter of four-term Idaho governor Cecil Andrus. When the votes were counted, Brother Coles was on top with 52 percent of the vote.
"I spent my life going to school and working for the right type of experience and education that would prepare me to be the leader and manager of this city," he said.
Brother Coles earned a bachelors degree in political science at BYU in 1978, then went on to Cal State University-Long Beach where he earned a master's degree in public administration. At the same time, he was assistant to the city manager of Artesia, Calif.
He returned to Boise, to where he had moved with his family when he was 16 years old, to take employment in 1980 as a senior development analyst in the city planning department at age 28. He was elected to the city council in 1983 at age 31, giving up his city position and taking a job with a private developer.
He gained a special appreciation for the type of government in the United States while serving a mission in South America.
While education and experience were a big factor in his political success, gospel principles were a good guide, he noted.
"There's no question about the fact that the gospel teaches you to set goals and work honestly toward those goals, and to have faith that your weaknesses can become your strengths," he said.
He learned many lessons about such things as integrity and dedication from his father as the pair stood side by side fly fishing on Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Idaho, he said.
Brother Coles was born in Idaho Falls, a city where many Mormons settled and where the LDS Church is the predominant religion. When he was 16, he moved with his family to Boise, a city with a different background. Boise grew as a center for fur traders and as a stop on the Oregon Trail, and boomed during a gold rush in the 1860s. It now has a population of 142,000.
"Boise has one of the lowest crime rates of the cities in the Northwest," he said. "It is a city that is building neighborhoods; a city with a redeveloped and beautiful downtown core; a city of parks and greenbelts."
He received a lot of campaign support from one special-interest group - his family.
"When things were tough I had additional strength and anchors to hold onto that I knew would see me through, win or lose. I knew my family would be stronger when the election was over. Having family around me and working together with me made all the difference," he said.
His wife, Julie, was active in his campaign. She had a strong background in the gospel that was a big help, he said. They have five children - Charisse, 17; Chad, 16; Casey, 11; C. Jay, 7; and Kathleen, 8 months. The older ones did what they could, including handing out flyers, to help their father's campaign.
They are members of the Boise 36th Ward, Boise Idaho West Stake, where Brother Coles teaches Sunday School course 13.
He said he is satified to have succeeded in a career that fits his talents and goals, and wants to help Boise maintain its high quality of life of life while facing challenges in the future as a growing city. - Greg Hill