JOSEPH — Joseph has a new mayor.
The City Council — in a virtual meeting held Thursday, Sept. 2 — was read a letter from former Mayor Belinda Buswell that was effective the previous day resigning her position. She said in the letter that she had moved outside the city limits of Joseph. Section 27 of the Joseph City Charter, she wrote, notes actions that can create a vacancy in the mayoral position automatically, and one of them is “removal of residency from the city.”
Buswell told the Chieftain Thursday, Sept. 2, that she has moved to Elgin, and “that was because I am forwarding my life relationship I have with my boyfriend.”
Buswell took over as mayor in January after defeating then-Mayor Teresa Sajonia in the November 2020 election.
“I didn’t want to give up being mayor. We had so much left to do, we’ve come so far, (and it’s) been awesome to watch the council find their voice,” she said. “I think I’m leaving the city in good hands.”
She held the seat for just eight months, and also oversaw the city during a time of turmoil within the city government, including the resignation of former city Administrator Larry Braden in April and, in July, the resignation of Councilwoman Kathy Bingham, who had previously been censured. Harassment allegations also swirled around the council.
“It’s been difficult the entire time, if we’re honest,” she said.
Lisa Collier, the current mayor pro-tem, accepted the position of mayor during Thursday night’s City Council meeting, Pro-Tem Administrator Brock Eckstein said Friday.
Collier had but one proviso, Eckstein said.
“She said she would only take it if the full council supported the decision,” he said.
They did and she did.
“I will do whatever the council would like me to do, but I want to make sure there’s support,” Collier said earlier Thursday.
She said her only agenda is simple.
“I feel like we’ve been through a lot,” she said. “I want to build trust with the city, the city staff, the business owners, the public. I want to run the city with the citizens’ wishes and livelihood in mind. I don’t have a personal agenda.”
She’ll get to work at her new post with the next council meeting.
“At our next council meeting in October she will reassign committees,” Eckstein said.
Collier will serve out the remainder of Buswell’s four-year term, and will take the reins as the council has two vacancies to fill: her own and Bingham’s.
Eckstein said the city already has three applications for the vacant seats. The city will continue taking applications until Oct. 4 and consider them at the Oct. 7 meeting.
Buswell said she worked closely with Collier during the time she was the pro-tem.
“She was a great sounding board for me,” Buswell said.
She also believes good days are ahead for the current council.
“I think it’s in good shape, and I think things are going to keep going smooth,” she said. “I wish the council the best.”
Collier, who grew up in Joseph, was appointed to the council about two years ago under then-Mayor Sajonia. She currently serves on the Main Street Motiff Committee and the Parks and Recreation Committee. She works for the Intermountain Education Services District as a teacher of special education and traumatized kids and preschool at Enterprise Elementary School. She and husband J.R. Collier have seven children, four of whom are grown and three attend Joseph Charter School.
“I want people to know about me and our lives. … I want people to feel comfortable,” she said. “I feel I’m on good terms with the public. … We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do and I want it seen as a positive change. … I think there are good things happening and I want to continue that.”
Eckstein was enthusiastic about Collier’s taking the reins of the City Council.
“I think she’ll do a fantastic job. She doesn’t come in with any agenda,” he said. “She just wants to help city get back on its feet.”