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Maxine Horn strives to make a difference

Journey into office,
future built on faith
NAMPA -- Four years ago, Maxine Horn knew she could make a difference in Nampa. So she sold her real-estate office -- a profession she had been in for more than 20 years -- and ran for mayor.
     "Talk about blind faith, huh?" she says with her characteristic hearty laughter.
     It may have been blind faith that landed her the title of Nampa's mayor -- but it was a blind date that brought her to Nampa.
     On March 3, 1963, at the urging of her friend, she went on a blind date with Lyle Horn. They went to a church function, where her friend, Lyleís cousin, was singing.
     "It was pretty benign," Horn remembers.
     But it was enough to spark a relationship that, a year later, resulted in marriage. He was from Nampa, so they moved to be with his family. Since then, her own family has uprooted and become Nampans.

Deep roots in Nampa
     Hornís first Nampa job was secretary for then-Mayor Ernest Starr. She worked for Starr 10 years.
     "I used to think I could do that," Horn says of being mayor, "not ever thinking I would."
     In fact, the only memory she has of being politically minded was the "A" she scored her senior year in her political government class. She said she was a "B-average" student.
     But after working in City Hall, her political juices flowed and she served four years on the zoning commission and four years on the City Council, of which she was the second woman to hold a seat. She was also the second woman on the real estate commission.
     When she became mayor, she was the first woman to hold that title in Nampa. "This is the first time Iíve been first in the field," she laughs.
     She isnít a woman sworn to a feminist agenda. And what she reiterated during the last mayoral election was that voters shouldnít vote gender. They should vote qualifications.
     And itís this smooth, down-to-earth approach thatís grounding her during this election. She doesnít have any swanky, flashy slogans to urge people to vote for her. What she does have, though, is a sense of comfort about what sheís accomplished for Nampa's sense of community and what she, as a mayor, represents.
     As she likes to put it, "Iím going on my record."
     "Have I done everything perfect? Absolutely not. Have I learned a lot? Absolutely," she said.
     Sheís proud of her partnerships that she has crafted with various people. Horn isnít spending more time in the community while sheís campaigning because, the fact is, sheís always in the community.
     Her real estate office helped Horn network in the community and put her face-to-face with issues that affect businesses. After she sold the office, she let her real estate license become inactive.
     Even though youíll still see her name in the phone book under a real estate listing, the number rings to All-American Realty -- and Horn has no connection.

A rematch with Dale
     Four years ago, Horn defeated Tom Dale, then with just two years of experience on the City Council, by fewer than 60 votes in a five-way race.
     Now, a much more seasoned Dale again wants the job. But the two often hold similar views on issues that come before the council, even controversial planning or development decisions.
     Supporter B. Edgar Johnson, a Northwest Nazarene University official with ties to many community events, says the lack of differences on key topics surfaced during the campaign. That, he says, is a credit to Hornís administration, one that has been relatively free of controversy.
     "Weíve had a no-issue campaign," Johnson said. "Although opponents have tried to create issues when there arenít any, even they must recognize that Maxine Horn has done an excellent job."
     Lynn McConnell, a well-known Nampan and Dale supporter, says Hornís disadvantage is that voters want fresh ideas and a new administration.
     "I think weíre ready for a change," she said. "Tom has a little more insight into what people in Nampa want."

Working with partners
     Horn has worked to forge partnerships on major issues during her tenure, whether with the business community and the Chamber of Commerce, with youth groups or state transportation officials.
     A priority has been to help revitalize North Nampa.
     But Mike Gray, president of the North Nampa Residents Association, said both Horn and Dale have worked to make the city a better place, which makes deciding between the opponents harder.
     "I go back and forth between the two. I like and respect both of them," he said. "Iíve enjoyed working with both of them."
     Dick Claiborne, who spent 16 years on the city council and ran unsuccessfully for mayor four years ago, believes that as a member of the City Council, Dale has a tough assignment in trying to unseat incumbent Horn.
     "Heís not in a position to challenge what has or hasnít been done (by the city) when he sits there with one of the votes," Claiborne said.
     Nampa City Council member Stephen Kren, the only city office-holder not running for election, says to a great extent, the mayorís race is a referendum on Hornís term.
     "Itís a decision based on the mayorís last four years and whether voters feel comfortable with the mayorís experience," he said, with the same refrain about the lack of hot topics: "There are no big issues."
     Kren wouldnít say publicly yet which candidate heíll vote for, he did say: "I like Horn for her willingness to try and solve problems before they happen."

Long hours at the helm
     Horn thought that when she got out of real estate and into City Hall, she would have an 8-to-5 job.
     She says she easily spends 10 to 12 hours daily carrying out her mayoral duties, whether those are City Council meetings, a pancake breakfast or a pumpkin race.
     As a real-estate agent, Hornís day didnít start until 9 or 10 a.m., so when she became mayor and 7 a.m. meetings were regularly scheduled, it was an adjustment.
     "Why do we have to get up in the middle of the night," she jokes about her early-morning meetings.
     But she cherishes every minute of it. She isnít obligated to attend various events around town -- she wants to.
     "I felt if I was invited, it was important to someone. To the person who invited me," she said.
     Her busy schedule requires Horn to set priorities. And hers are solidly on partnerships within the Nampa community, even if itís not the best for political networking. An example: Opponent Dale has criticized her for sending the city public works chief to regional transportation planning meetings instead of going herself. Her reason: She has a long-standing commitment to "Healthy Nampa Healthy Youth" board meetings at exactly the same time.
     Hornís personal credo is: "Stand up for whatís right, even if youíre standing alone."

Union arises as issue
     This summer, while Horn and three members of the City Council were in Atlanta making the cityís second bid to join the All-America City elite, several dozen employees met back in Nampa and considered forming a union.
     Their concerns including how pay raises were awarded, how grievances were handled and how a new pay system was being implemented. Horn was visibly shaken after learning about the effort, saying the discontent caught her off guard.
     "I thought the employees were as happy as clams," she said.
     They were not. Some of the unhappiness came from a salary improvement plan intended to bring employees up to be competitive with other area cities. Some employees got much bigger raises than others, many of them in fire and police.
     Horn said the city did a bad job of communicating how that plan worked, which upset rank-and-file workers who didnít understand. She took responsibility, saying she assumed incorrectly that her department heads had taken the time to carefully explain the pay plan. Some had not.
     The union effort was diverted after Horn agreed to meet monthly with a group of city employees serving as an advisory panel. The group is free to discuss whatever is on their minds with the mayor. The union talk has subsided.

A community in mind
     Whether itís a child or adult, and whether she is mayor or not, Hornís character is to make each person feel like they are important to the community. And, as mayor, her duty is to stand up for that community.
     She isnít nervous about the upcoming elections. To Horn, the fate of the elections isnít entirely in her hands.
     "I am a person of deep faith. I think God has a plan for everyoneís life, and if Iím the right person, Iíll be here," she said. "If Iím not, then Heís got a better plan for my life. I just donít know what it is yet."

-- Lane Bettencourt and David Woolsey contributed to this story.

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Press Tribune Note: article retyped in HTML for better readability.
Nov 1, 2001 - Page 10a

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