Ph.D. Specializing in Leadership & Organizational Development, University of ID.
Master's Psychological Counseling, Idaho State University.
B.A. Communications, Boise State University.
Certificate, International Peacebuilding and Conflict Mediation, Intercollege of Cyprus.
Prior political experience
President, Idaho Council of Governments serving ten counties in Southwest Idaho. Board members included county commissioners, mayors, city council members, legislators, and business leaders. Agencies included: Area Agency on Aging, Economic Development District, EPA Brownfields Environmental Program, EDA/USDA Small Business Loans, and the Idaho Hunger Task Force.
Lobbyist for the Association of Idaho Conservation Officers.
Leadership Boise, Rotary and Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar. Youth coach and mentor.
Years living in Idaho
My son is a high school teacher, basketball coach, and professional river guide. My daughter is an university student, animal shelter volunteer, and member of Kiwanis Circle K.
Other social media
As president of Idaho's largest Council of Governments my role was to facilitate collaboration amongst county commissioners and to provide public services for the ten counties of Southwest Idaho. My responsibilities included board development, overseeing a multimillion dollar budget, managing a diverse staff, and developing an advisory council on aging.
I also have over 20 years of experience owning a management consulting firm that provides leadership training, organizational development, continuous quality improvement measures, and change management processes for government agencies, universities, healthcare organizations, and businesses. I have worked with executives locally and around the world with the goal of achieving organizational excellence. I will bring those same skills to the position of Ada County Commissioner.
1. The most important task would be to improve communication between the county, cities and local transportation agencies. Current relationships are strained. I would facilitate open dialogue and improve collaboration to create more efficient and effective processes.
2. Developing a comprehensive plan that will ensure smart growth, affordable housing, viable public transportation options, and maintain our clean and safe environment is paramount. Our current comprehensive plan does not take the tremendous growth we are experiencing into account and infrastructure is not keeping pace.
3. I would foster a favorable environment for business by creating incentives for new and existing companies. I would support businesses that are environmentally sound, sustainable, and that incorporate practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
4. As your commissioner I promise to be open and transparent, and to encourage the most effective use of resources. I will discourage overspending by using a data driven performance-based budgeting process. My goal is to save taxpayers money while continuously improving services.
Manage Growth Effectively: A survey administered by BSU showed 55% of residents say the area is growing too fast. As a result, affordable homes are more difficult to find, and transportation is already challenging. As commissioner, I would facilitate developing a comprehensive and inclusive plan incorporating Smart Growth principles with input from the cities and the rural communities.
Improve Transportation: Residents want local government to spend tax dollars on improving transportation. An analysis of public transportation services compared to current and future needs would provide a viable footprint and would include looking into rail service from Canyon to Ada County, and adjusting bus schedules and routes.
Promote Community Health: We are faced with an opioid crisis and high rates of homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty. I would work closely with community leaders and healthcare professionals to create a long-term plan to improve rehabilitation services.
Protect Our Environment: Our Boise River is under attack from a mining company repeatedly dumping arsenic into it. As your commissioner, I would stop this assault, and protect our open spaces and public lands.
There is a lack of collaboration and planning at the county level. I was asked to run for this office by leadership because the county is not effectively communicating with the cities. I believe the ordinance defining planned communities needs to be more clearly defined to address the intended goal of “work, play, live.” The county needs to do a better job working with the cities and ACDH to solve current transportation and infrastructure problems and budget shortfalls.
Ada County residents deserve leadership that will commit to data driven performance-based budgeting in order to keep taxes at the lowest possible rates while still providing excellent services. Analyzing needs and costs at the end of every fiscal year so that all expenses are justified would be a priority. I would examine all aspects of the equation and provide an assessment of current and future service needs and anticipated growth rates. After careful analysis of various tax relief models and their financial implications, I would then make recommendations for tax relief.
With rising property values comes increased property taxes. Many senior citizens and vulnerable adults can no longer afford to pay their taxes. Aging in place should be a community goal and will save taxpayers money in the long run, and it’s the right thing to do. I would look into proposing a cap on property taxes for our most vulnerable population.
I believe the House committee that passed this legislation forbidding counties from adopting more stringent or up-to-date residential building codes has placed the residents of Ada County in potentially dangerous situations. We all remember what the winter of 2017 brought in terms of unprecedented snow and extreme weather conditions. Rooftops caved and homes were damaged. Local government knows what is best for their local communities. The Association of Idaho Counties has a strong voice at the Statehouse that could be used to challenge this legislation next session. The current commissioners voted to opt out of being a member of this strong county collaborative much to the dismay of many county government officials and local residents. I would rejoin Ada County to the association and work with them to reverse this decision. My experience working with the Association will help expedite this process
The most effective way to bolster public defense services is by addressing the root causes of violent crimes like domestic violence, elder and child abuse, and sexual assault. My experience working in mental health facilities, serving on the Ada County crisis management team and managing adult protective services for the council of governments has afforded me insight and skills necessary in solving the crisis we face. Unlike the current commissioners who threatened to revoke funding for the Allumbaugh House, I would increase support for this crisis center as well as FACES of Hope. I believe we would need fewer defense services if we provided better preventative services.
Our public defenders are overloaded and mental health issues are represented in many of the cases. We need to provide ongoing training, support, and state of the art technology to provide proper indigent defense. I would work hard to secure additional state funding from the Idaho Public Defense Commission, an oversight board seeking to reform the state’s public-defense system.
The 240-acre parcel referred to as the fairgrounds is Ada County’s most underutilized asset and is mostly a blighted area that is in desperate need of revitalization. There are many parties that need to be involved in creating a vision for the property including Mayor Evans and city council members who have done a remarkable job in supporting smart development in Garden City. This property has tremendous potential. If a plan could create more usable space for public use, I believe a state-of-the-art fairground can be built at very little cost to the county as part of a larger private mixed-use development of retail, entertainment, restaurant, lodging, office and residential development. The development could update the entire current fairgrounds facilities and maintain the existing use including horse racing. This property could be placed on the tax rolls and provide significant funding for the county.
I will support services that provide for our most vulnerable populations; this includes shelter, food and medical services. I would work with Idaho Housing and Finance, and other community partners, to create the best possible affordable solutions.
BA, University of California at Berkeley
Prior political experience
Please see www.sharonu.com for more information.
As a commissioner, from January 2001-03, I:
• Triggered a $6 million property tax REBATE after I took office and learned the county had a $20 million surplus.
• Saved taxpayers $7 million by questioning a costly proposal to purchase a new emergency radio system, leading to a new, lower cost option.
• Saved Ada County property taxpayers $412,000 annually (more with inflation) when I learned the state was obligated to fund the pre-sentence investigator program.
As a commissioner, from January 2009-13, I, in collaboration with my colleagues:
• Left $81 million in property taxpayers’ pockets.
• Saved $750,000 on the Republic Services trash hauling contract for ratepayers.
• Transferred the poorly-managed Misdemeanor Probation program out of the hands of a private contractor and it is now under county control.
• In a foreclosure sale, for a fraction of its market value, purchased the land linking the Ridge-to-Rivers and Avimor trail systems for the enjoyment of county residents.
• Spearheaded a collaborative program using ISU students to provide health screenings for low-income residents, stressing personal responsibility and prevention.
For more than 20 years, I have worked on behalf of taxpayers on issues such as: public utilities, water and sewer rates, schools, emergency preparedness, public records access and open meetings, bringing the citizen perspective to these issues.
I attended meetings of the Ada County Commission for many years before I was elected to serve on it and have testified at countless county budget hearings and legislative committee hearings, advocating for taxpayers’ interests.
As a commissioner, I served as the Chair of the Ada County Hazard Mitigation Committee and received a Health Care Heroes Award as a “Health Care Innovator” from the Idaho Business Review.
I served as a Board Member of the national Platelet Disorder Support Association, as the Chair of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Region 4 Infant and Toddler Committee, as the Chair of the Booth Home Advisory Council, and as a Director on the Board of Directors of the Idaho Newspaper Foundation.
In the 1990’s, I served as a citizen representative on five school district committees. In 1998, I received an Idaho Press Club Award, and in 1999, received the Max Dalton Open Government Award from the Idaho Newspaper Foundation.
Years living in Idaho
I am the proud mother of six children and two stepchildren. My husband, Joe Coones, is a Chemical Engineer who has been with the Micron family for 21 years.
Other social media
In addition to my bachelor’s degree and 20+ years serving as a public advocate, I demonstrated my ability to get the job done for Ada County’s taxpayers during my six years as an elected commissioner. Ada County was in excellent financial shape when I left office, despite our commitment to lower taxes. The county:
• Carried forward $25 million from FY 2013 into the following year’s budget, to continue to operate on a cash basis;
• Had over $30 million saved to pay off courthouse bonds;
• Bills were paid, and all our legal obligations were fulfilled.
While in my second term as a commissioner, we left $81 million in the pockets of taxpayers. In four years, the tax portion of the Ada County budget increased a total of $3.1 million – just 3.7 percent, the amount generated by new construction. In the six years I have been off the Board, the tax portion of the Ada County budget has ballooned by a whopping $41 million – more than 51 percent!
Unless a fiscal conservative is elected now, you can expect this trend to continue.
For more information, please see www.sharonu.com or call (208) 861-5848.
• Return the county to a zero-based budgeting system, in which every expense must be justified periodically, to stop wasteful spending and reduce property taxes
• Remove the influence of cronyism and political payoffs in Ada County government (I do not accept contributions from special interests)
• Prevent lawsuits such as the one that cost taxpayers $2.7 million when two current commissioners were found guilty of wrongfully firing a county whistleblower
• Work to expand our collaborative preventive Community Health Screening program, to reduce costs to taxpayers as well as cut down on the unnecessary use of limited emergency room space
• Return integrity and openness to Ada County government
• Protect county employees, colleagues and peers around the state from bullying by commissioners
• Work to provide increased access to services for west Ada County residents
• Work to bring gun shows back to Expo Idaho
• Provide the public an insider’s view of government in Ada County through blogging, social media, radio interviews, and public appearances
• ALWAYS ask questions and know the facts before voting on issues that affect Ada County taxpayers
Although rapid growth certainly brings its challenges, our county would be worse off with a population exodus, as has happened here in the past when our young people had to leave to find jobs.
We all know the Treasure Valley is a great place to live. Word has gotten out and others are coming here to enjoy all that our community has to offer. Growth does bring challenges but cannot be stopped.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” a quote sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin, sums up this situation. It is necessary for the county to work closely with other local government entities, such as the Ada County Highway District, the cities, the school districts, and the affordable housing agencies, to ensure the adequacy of long-term planning and the provision of services with regularly updated information and forecasts.
It is also important to ensure compliance with the laws and plans already in place. If a project does not comply with the county’s comprehensive plan, but is approved anyway, what is the use of spending resources to create such a plan?!
There must be a balance between the needs of the development community, newcomers, and the people who are already here. We cannot stop growth, but we must ensure that the impacts growth has on the existing community and infrastructure can be mitigated within a reasonable timeframe.
While planned communities sound good and do provide some benefits, such as designated open space, they also have some negative consequences. From a planning perspective, higher densities belong in town, close to services, with lower densities in the suburban and rural areas.
Unless employment, schools, medical and dental care, grocery stores, restaurants and entertainment options are provided within or near a planned community, demand on our already crowded roads is increased. Providing emergency services also costs more.
Elected officials who prioritize the good of their constituents can work effectively together even when they disagree. I have been successful in collaborating with others to implement innovative solutions to county problems, such as with our proactive community health screening program, and our countywide hazard mitigation planning effort.
Yes, property tax relief can easily be achieved by re-implementing zero-based budgeting, in which every expense must be justified periodically, to stop wasteful spending and reduce property taxes.
Inflation has been a total of less than ten percent the past six years, and does not explain the astronomical 51 percent property tax budget growth during that same timeframe. The total population growth in Ada County over the past six years, although rapid, has been about 18 percent. There is an economy of scale that can be achieved in providing county services to a larger number of residents, so the budget need not increase as fast as the population.
County government in Idaho has a very narrowly defined set of responsibilities, and in Ada County does NOT include things like schools, roads and airports. The recent dramatic increase in property taxes was uncalled for and is unreasonable, particularly given that the courthouse is now paid off and the dispatch center is built. Even without these big expenditures in it, the Ada County budget is still grossly bloated.
The problem addressed by the legislature was real: two houses, across the street from each other, were subject to different building codes if they were in two different municipalities or if one was in the city and one in the unincorporated county. As far as the solution implemented, however, I would have certainly preferred local control.
Cities and counties generally serve a different purpose but implementing and enforcing building codes is one exception. The County Commission should be proactive by taking the lead in the effort to ensure all entities implement a building code standard that meets all needs throughout the county. Rejoining our colleagues in the Idaho Association of Counties would allow a state-wide effort, by the counties, to regain local control over building codes.
Ada County is not in the same boat as some of the smaller counties in providing public defender services. In our county, adequate resources and staff are in place.
Unlike the current commissioners did, I would not impetuously withdraw the county from participation in the Capital Crimes Defense Fund before understanding the value this collaboration brings to Ada County. Thankfully, the commissioners did eventually recognize the error of their decision and voted to undo the damage.
We do have a very serious related unmet need: The Court Appointed Special Advocates program for abused and neglected children was unable to provide representation for 59 children under the age of 12 during their 2017 fiscal year, due to a lack of resources.
As a community, we must do better for these children. The Ada County commissioners must work with the State of Idaho to ensure adequate funding and resources are available, so no child is ever forced to navigate the court system alone. Beyond just morally being the right thing to do, providing appropriate guidance for these young children gives them a better chance of steering clear of the criminal justice system as adults.
Treasure Valley Racing’s lease of Les Bois Park from Ada County is not contingent on the passage of Proposition 1; however, if the facilities do become available, the discussion about other uses can begin in earnest.
If Treasure Valley Racing does decide to walk away from Les Bois Park, I would like to see a renewed effort to move Lady Bird Park to the river side of the fairgrounds property to create a desirable community amenity. The street side of the fairgrounds near Garden City’s town center, should be used for something complementary and beneficial to the interests of the county as well as to the residents of Garden City.
If, and when, the Les Bois Park lease ends, the real discussion about future uses can begin, and all stakeholders including Expo Idaho neighbors, business owners, and Garden City representatives, should be invited to participate in that process.
Providing housing is not a legally mandated responsibility of county government in Idaho, but Ada County taxpayers are impacted by the costs of the chronically homeless in our community. We pay their medical and mental health care bills through county and state programs, and we pay for increased law enforcement, court costs, etc.
I recently met with Gerald Hunter, the Executive Director of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, to get an update on the Housing First project. The county should continue to participate in this and similar projects if the following criteria are met:
1) The highest priority for receiving services is ALWAYS given to U.S. VETERANS;
2) It can be demonstrated that through participation Ada County taxpayers will save money and those savings are proven on a regular basis;
3) Dorm-style or other cost-effective housing with shared quarters will be used;
4) Only actual long-term residents of Ada County are eligible; and,
5) The county has at least one seat at the table for decision-making purposes.