In September, I joined Reps. Ricks, Raymond, and Furniss for a joint, District 34-35 town hall with House leadership. The questions ranged from wildlife overpasses and road construction to education standards and water management. As I sat and listened when the others spoke, I was struck by how many issues we’ve already worked together on even as we represent different districts.

The same holds true when I consider the other legislative districts in Eastern Idaho. There are differences on certain policies, but overall, we’ve found a lot of common ground. Looking at how much our state has grown and changed in the last 10 years, that’s not a small thing. In fact, as we move forward, these strong working relationships between Eastern Idaho legislators are critical.

Eastern Idaho: It’s Not Us Versus Them

It’s not a case of us (Eastern Idaho) versus them (Magic Valley, Treasure Valley, Northern Idaho). Instead, it’s a recognition that different parts of the state have different priorities and needs. There will always be the need to balance regional demands within the larger state concerns. But whenever possible, I believe it matters that legislators from neighboring districts can work together.

In the past, when daily travel was limited to how far someone could go on foot or by horse, it was less of any issue. Now, we’re connected in so many ways up and down the Snake River Plain. I know students are traveling regularly to ISU in Pocatello from Rexburg. I know there are businesses in St. Anthony that depend on people coming from Madison County and that people living around Rigby commute to work in Rexburg each day.

It’s clear why I should care what’s happening in the communities around District 34, and why I’ve made it a point to tell everyone in Eastern Idaho I’m happy to help. I believe my fellow legislators from Districts 28-35 feel the same way.

With Growth Comes Change

So why does any of this matter? We’re still growing and changing as a state. In 2017, Idaho earned the spot of fastest-growing state in the nation. Our Idaho Department of Labor anticipates that we’ll hit almost 1.9 million people by 2026. In other words, there’s a lot that will happen as new people continue to join us. When we navigate the changes coming our way, it’s critical that we stand together as an interconnected region.

Of course, we still stand for our districts and represent the needs of the people who voted for us. But part of representing those needs means taking the time to understand all the factors around our districts that have a potential impact.

If there’s an issue that concerns you, please let me know. I’m always happy to chat, and sometimes important things haven’t hit my radar yet. I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and expertise to help me better understand situations at the local level.