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POCATELLO — City Councilwoman Chris Stevens announced Saturday she’s running for mayor in pursuance of her goal to restructure the city’s government.

Stevens, a retired school principal who was voted onto the Pocatello City Council in 2019, is the first publicly announced candidate in this year’s race for Pocatello mayor.

“You heard it here first,” Stevens said after announcing her mayoral candidacy to a group of about 20 Pocatello residents during the first meeting of what she’s calling a “city-wide listening tour” that kicked off at Caldwell Park on Saturday morning.

The tour, open to all residents and organized by Stevens and her fellow council members Roger Bray and Claudia Ortega, features the trio and intends to serve as an opportunity for citizens to meet and speak openly with the three council members about a range of topics pertaining to city government.

Stevens used her platform at the meeting to announce her candidacy and explain that if she becomes mayor she plans to cultivate a more transparent and approachable government, and ultimately reorganize how the city’s elected officials operate.

The city councilwoman, who has been an outspoken critic of longtime Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad whom she hopes to oust, said she believes city government “needs to be focused on serving the people who pay the bills.”

“All the money that this city government has comes from the people,” she said. “I believe intensely that city government is a service organization, and we don’t have that here. I truly believe we do not have that and I believe that that is ethically incorrect.”

Stevens called her reorganization plan for Pocatello’s government “an octopus with many tentacles.” She said it’s “relatively easy to say and very complex to do, but it’s not impossible.”

While Stevens is the earliest publicly announced candidate in the race, she is already all but confirmed to have to face incumbent Mayor Blad in her effort to replace him.

Blad, who was first elected in 2009 and is serving his third four-year term as mayor, plans to run for reelection and will soon make a formal announcement. 

Stevens declined to speculate on her chances as a challenger to Blad and whether she thinks she’ll come out victorious, but she said she plans to employ her past campaign strategies — namely knocking on doors and making herself accessible to residents — to get voters’ attention in her bid for mayor.

Having campaigned successfully for her city council seat in 2019 and unsuccessfully for a seat on the Bannock County Commission in 2018, Stevens is not new to the political arena. She said campaigning is her “half of the equation, and then it’s up to the voters.”

“Whatever they decide,” she said, “I can live with because I will know that I made my best effort.”

The election, in which city residents will vote for mayor and city council seats 4, 5 and 6, is set for Nov. 2, 2021.