Donnie Wunder swearing in

Donnie Wunder sworn into office as Gem County Sheriff on the steps of the Gem County Courthouse on Monday.

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Gem County swore in a new sheriff Monday morning. Three other county officials were sworn in to additional terms of office after re-election in November. For all four it then became business as usual on Monday with one eye trained on what goes on in Boise in the coming weeks as the Idaho Legislature also convened Monday.

Donnie Wunder is now Gem County Sheriff — after 34 years serving in the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, the last 27 as Chief Deputy. He says not to expect a lot of changes – at least not right away.

“I don’t think you will see much in the way of changes as to the way we operate and our philosophy of law enforcement,” Wunder said Monday morning following a brief swearing in ceremony on the steps of the Gem County Courthouse. “No iron fist here. We respect the people and I think they respect us.”

Wunder succeeds Chuck Rolland who announced his retirement last winter prior to the primary election. Rolland said his goodbyes to his staff early Monday morning before stepping aside for Wunder’s oath of office in front of family and friends in the crisp morning air.

Joining Wunder in the brief ceremony were newly re-elected County Commissioners Bill Butticci and Bryan Elliott, each sworn in by Commissioner Mark Rekow. Rekow was later in the morning selected to take on the Chairmanship of the Board of Commissioners – succeeding Elliott in that role. Gem County Prosecutor Erick Thomsen was sworn in later in the day as he was in District Court during the Monday morning group ceremony.

Rekow commented that the Board of Commissioners will be tackling a number of issues that have been on the table for the last couple of years.

“Tax law changes, comprehensive planning, oil and gas ordinances, transportation issues,” Rekow placed at the top of a list of issues facing the three-person Board. “We have a lot of things that could or could not change, depending on what happens in the Legislature. We have to be ready to move appropriately within the limits that they may or may not determine in Boise this year.”

For county and city governments the actions that the Legislature takes regarding property taxes may be the most impactful. Any formula changes could dramatically impact the funds available to operate local government. While property taxes provide less than half of the local government budgeted revenues, any change could be significant. Perhaps more impactful would be proposals that do nothing with the formula or little to affect the rising assessment value of homes but put additional restraints on how local governments can form their budgets.

Emmett Schools will also be watching the Legislative debates on property taxes and property assessments, as well as other discussed funding mechanisms for schools. The Emmett School District Board was scheduled Monday evening to determine if they will be taking a levy request to voters in March to renew and extend a current supplemental levy that expires this year. A future school building bond that was pulled from the ballot in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic last spring remains under consideration.

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