Mayoral race heats up as veteran council member announces bid

Current town councilor Arne Jorgensen said he’ll focus on addressing the town’s budget issues, along with rampant wealth inequality.
Arne Jorgensen has served on the Jackson Town Council for six years. (Courtesy of Arne Jorgensen)

November’s ballot for the Jackson town council election is starting to fill up. Today, current council member Arne Jorgensen announced his run for mayor, and he said solving the town’s budget problems is on the top of his agenda. 

The town estimates it could go off a $4 million budget cliff in the next few years if changes aren’t made. Jorgensen, who’s sat on the council for six years, said the town strives to be as efficient as possible.

“But the reality is there’s not enough money in those budgets to really add to the work we can do on our priorities,” he said.

Those core priorities include transportation, housing, conservation, and health and human services, Jorgensen said.


He said, as mayor, he’d continue to pursue solutions to the budget issue like raising sales taxes and getting Teton County to pay a larger share for joint town-county departments, like Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.

The town voted to extend their agreement with the county for fire and EMS services another year in an April meeting, but in the same motion, also directed town staff to set up a time with the county to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.

Right now, the town pays 46% of joint department expenditures and the county pays the remaining 54% — even though the county makes twice as much revenue as the town.

“I mean, at the end of the day, one half of the county commissioners’ constituents live in the town of Jackson, so it would be nice if you could come to a more, equitable sharing of those joint department [expenses],” Jorgensen said.

Another priority, he said, is addressing growth and inequity in the region. Teton County is home to some of the highest per capita income in the country — and some of the highest wealth inequality. 

“We’re at a tipping point of losing the core of our community and becoming a resort only. That’s something that’s obvious,” Jorgensen said. “We should view all of our discussions through this lens while making sure we’re reinforcing that community of people, of residents, as well as respecting our natural resources in Teton County.”

A Jackson native, Jorgensen is also an architect and helped form the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust. He said he’ll continue to prioritize the owners and renters of affordable housing.

He’s currently the second in command on the council to Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson, who has said she won’t seek reelection in order to focus on her family and business. 

Affordable housing is also a top priority for council member Jessica Sell Chamber, who announced her bid for mayor in early March. She said she hopes to also increase focus on residents’ mental health and use her power to set the agenda to “affect some more meaningful change.”

Current council member Jim Rooks and former member Scott Anderson, also the owner of Jackson Hole Radio, have announced they’re running for council.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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