COEUR d'ALENE - Coeur d'Alene City Council President Mike Kennedy said Monday he won't seek a third term on the council.
Not only that, but Kennedy confirmed that he won't run for mayor, either.
Kennedy, who beat both a lengthy lawsuit challenging his 2009 election victory and a recall attempt in 2012, said he wants to focus on his family and growing business instead of continuing his political career.
He called the last eight years "rewarding, and never boring," but said his duties as a father of seven and president of the Coeur d'Alene business Intermax won't leave him time to properly legislate.
"I've loved this chapter in my life as an elected official, and I will definitely continue my civic involvement in some form in the future because it's the right thing to do," Kennedy said in a statement issued Monday. "My time on City Council has been a valuable down payment on public service."
Kennedy serves on a number of committees, heading the General Services Committee, the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and is involved in the Idaho Humanities Council. He is currently city council president, a post he assumed two years ago. Although he didn't rule out a return to politics down the line, he doesn't have specific plans.
"There's no other way to learn a community inside and out than to do this," he said in a Press interview Monday.
A Democrat, Kennedy served on two Idaho senate campaigns before he was elected to the City Council in 2004. After he won a five-vote victory over Republican Jim Brannon in his 2009 re-election, his win was challenged in court on the grounds that inadmissible ballots had led to the total. His victory was trimmed down to three votes during the year-long court case, and eventually changed voting legislation before finally being settled in the Idaho Supreme Court.
The court case was at times bitter, and online political discussion mirrored the testy trial. Some point to it as the beginning of partisan politics in nonpartisan races locally.
Then in 2012, Kennedy was one of the four incumbents who supported McEuen Field's redevelopment targeted by a recall attempt, which narrowly failed to get on a ballot.
"It didn't help to have those kind of battles in the middle of everything else," he said, but then added, "This decision was about whether I could devote the time to do the job ... The political climate makes things less fun, but not less important."
He said he realizes that supporters and political opponents have dynamic opinions about his career. The Republican political groups who became involved in nonpartisan elections who opposed Kennedy, he called "extreme."
"I have never been shy about my opinions and the fact that I had been involved as a Democrat before getting into office" played a part in the amount of criticism received, he said. "Some people in the fringe just couldn't abide by that."
One of the political groups Kennedy called extreme was the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, which endorses candidates on the grounds that all elections are partisan, regardless if candidates have to declare a party or not. Its founder, Jeff Ward, said Kennedy's Democratic affiliation made him a political minority across the region, and that a reason the councilman received so much criticism was because Kennedy's views ran counter to the majority who live in North Idaho.
"That's exactly what a Democrat would say," Ward said of Kennedy's "extreme" remark about a political group founded in what many people call the most conservative county in the most conservative state in the union, "because Democrats find conservatives extreme. The reality of it is that Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County is highly conservative - it's not extreme, it's mainstream.
"After four years of the Obama administration the people of Kootenai County are not tolerant of the same kind of policies in our county. That's why a lot of liberals don't expect they can get elected. Not because of extremism, but because they're so out of touch with the people in the city and county."
Kennedy supported McEuen Field's reconstruction, now well underway. He is the second of the four park supporting incumbents targeted in the recall not seeking re-election. Mayor Sandi Bloem is the other. The two remaining council members, Woody McEvers and Deanna Goodlander, haven't declared.
City Councilman Dan Gookin said McEuen Park will be a mandate this election, as it was in 2011. He said regardless of what incumbents say, a major decision not to rerun is because victory at the polls will be hard to achieve over of the public's dissatisfaction with McEuen Park.
"I think that's absolutely why they don't run," Gookin said. "They don't want to face an angry mob."
Gookin is often on the opposite side of the political fence from Kennedy.
While Kennedy called Gookin "frustrating" to work with and has verbally sparred, even interrupted, Gookin at times during meetings, Gookin on Monday said he didn't begrudge Kennedy for his "passion." He said he would have preferred to see the mayor gavel down interruptions or personal digs, but didn't classify Kennedy's style as bullyish, as some of Gookin's supporters have. Rather, Gookin referred to Kennedy's style as "intense."
"There's an aspect of Mike I like to call the Irish street fighter," he said. But "I definitely do think Mike does have a good heart, and he does have a soft side ... We can both get passionate about things."
He added: "Mike does bring a perspective to the council that I don't bring and it's always good to have different perspectives there ... You always have to have both sides for government to work."
Kennedy, 44, said the upcoming election will be an important one for Coeur d'Alene, classifying the decision before voters as "purity versus progress." He said it was difficult to step away at such a pivotal point, but encouraged "competent people of good will who have the time and interest to consider public service to our community to serve."
Bloem, who also cited personal and professional opportunities for not seeking another term, called Kennedy's decision difficult news for the city.
"It will be a huge loss for the city," she said. "I understand his decision and respect it completely, but Mike has been a very active, engaging and passionate council person. We will miss him and those qualities."