Kathy was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 1, 1971. Both of Kathy’s parents were raised on the south side of Chicago in blue-collar families. Her father, Frank, worked as an electrician and electrical contractor.
Kathy’s mother, Jan, has been a nurse for over 40 years. She raised Kathy and her two brothers, Kevin and Brian, as a single parent after her and Frank divorced in 1983. Before her parent’s divorce Kathy and her brothers spent the winters snowmobiling and the summers swimming or riding go-karts. Kathy understood the importance of hard work at a young age saving her babysitting money to buy the incidentals that her mother couldn’t afford.
Kathy grew up in a strong Catholic family in the south suburbs of Chicago where her grandparents were a large part of her life. Her grandfather was a WWII veteran and pilot trainer in the Air Corps. Her grandmother helped raise Kathy and her brother while her mom worked after she had raised 7 children of her own. The tight-knit nature of Kathy’s extended family instilled in her strong family values and a tradition of closeness.
Kathy graduated from Crete-Monee High School and Illinois State University where she received a BS in Physical Geography. During college Kathy was awarded a semester to study in Alaska and for the fist time crossed the Mississippi River west. During her studies in Alaska she was introduced to the mountains and the joy of mountaineering.
Upon graduation in 1993 Kathy moved to Estes Park, CO where she started a career in outdoor education and was introduced to the benefits and banes of living in a resort and gateway community. In 1995 Kathy joined the Peace Corps as an Environmental Education Awareness Promoter in the Dominican Republic where she served for three years, extending her service to complete the projects she started.
After the Peace Corps Kathy worked as an outdoor educator leading cultural and wilderness programs on Hopi and Navajo reservations in the southwest, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. She also became an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and led programs in the Wind River Range of WY and in Mexico. She was a certified Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician.
In 1998 Kathy moved to Idaho as a graduate student at the University of Idaho, Moscow. There she studied in the College of Natural Resources, Department of Conservation Social Sciences. Her graduate work focused on an evaluation of the No Deje Rastro program, the Spanish version of the Leave No Trace Program.
Kathy met her husband, Rich, at Grand Targhee in 1999. She moved to Teton Valley in 2000 and began working at the Targhee Institute as an instructor. In 2001 she took a position at the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and became a Teton Pass commuter. In 2003 Kathy was recruited to work at the start up non-profit Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD).
Kathy and Rich live in Driggs and feel fortunate to have found affordable housing in 2002. They have been married for 5 years and have 2 boys, Leo and Jack, who are the loves of their lives. Kathy and Rich are co-owners of Yostmark Mountain Equipment in Driggs. They love living in Teton Valley and look forward to raising their family here.
Experience and Service to Teton Valley
In 2003, while Kathy worked at VARD, she co-founded the Downtown Driggs Community Association. The DDCA was started after a fire on Main Street destroyed 5 businesses important to the economic health of downtown Driggs. The organization was focused on economic development and revitalization through downtown beautification and events. Successful projects included the street fair on Little Avenue and the ice rink built on the vacant lot where the businesses were lost. In addition to these events, the DDCA helped the city adopt an Urban Renewal District, Design Standards and Guidelines and the Main Street improvement plan.
Seeing the positive effects from the DDCA, Kathy also helped co-found the Teton Valley Foundation, whose mission it is to bring cultural, recreational and educational events to the community. The Teton Valley Foundation hosts the popular Music on Main series - the premier downtown concert series every summer. Akin to the DDCA, the Teton Valley Foundation is founded on the principles of planning for the future and investing in economic growth.
Kathy also served as a Driggs Planning and Zoning Commissioner from 2004-2007 where she helped guide the city through the comprehensive planning process and the adoption of downtown design standards and guidelines. During this time her colleagues selected her to serve as a Driggs representative on the county Regional Sewer Committee as well.
Understanding the difficulty for working families to afford housing in Teton Valley, Kathy helped lead the county to address housing as a community issue serving as the Chair of the Housing Needs Assessment Study committee. She currently serves as a commissioner on the Teton County Housing Authority Commission.
While working with Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) Kathy’s leadership was instrumental in securing several resources for Teton Valley including:
- Your Town Design Workshop for Driggs (2004). One of four federal grants awarded in the county by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- EPA Smart Growth Technical Assistance grant for the cities of Driggs and Victor (2006). Also only one of four federal grants awarded in the country for $40,000 in planning and design assistance. Driggs and Victor had both applied the previous year and had not been awarded the grant. Kathy revised the application, included VARD as a partner and the grant was awarded.
- Secured $15,000 for the City of Driggs to conduct an economic analysis to supplement EPA work awarded in the Smart Growth Assistance Grant.
- Orton Heart and Soul grant for the City of Victor (2008). The $100,000 in community planning assistance over two years was only one of four awarded in the nation.
- Idaho’s Growth Management Grant (2006) for Teton County. A county grant earmarked for funding to support county GIS.
She helped secure approximately $100,000 in private donations to the county planning fund which has been used to hire Clarion Associates and fund the work with the revision of the PUD ordinance.
Kathy was elected Teton County Commissioner in 2008, after beating a 10-year incumbent. Since that time she, in partnership with all county employees, has completed numerous projects.
When Kathy began her term in 2009 one of the first things she did was help stabilize the county budget in response to the dramatic downturn in the economy. Cutting nearly $1 million from the budget called for making tough decisions, but this conservative approach closed the county’s 2009 books in the black and enabled the county to complete and move into the new courthouse.
Kathy was an important driver of the county’s successful award of an Energy Efficiency Block grant. Working with both Teton Valley Health Care and the city of Victor, Teton County was awarded a grant of nearly $100,000 for efficiency retrofits of streetlights in Victor and window replacement and solar water heater installations at the county hospital.
Two key parts of Kathy’s platform in 2008 were to establish a fair and consistent process for development proposals and to instill better community planning practices. During her first year, the county adopted criteria and an application process for subdivision extensions – both long absent and badly needed for improving fairness and consistency. Secondly, the county adopted a template for Development Agreements - a contract system the county uses to ensure developers complete infrastructure installations and improvements. Prior to this, every development agreement was different, allowing wildly inconsistent enforcement and accounting across the valley.
Lastly, Kathy contributed to amending the Nutrient Pathogen ordinance, closing loopholes and, in the end, better protecting Teton Valley’s water quality.