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A MAN ON A MISSION

Meridian Mayor Robert Simison on how he stays in touch with one of Idaho's fastest growing cities

Article by Kristen Larson

Photography by Jonni Armani, Charles Knowles, Becky's Aerial Photography

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Meridian’s Mayor Robert Simison is a man on a mission. Homegrown, family-forward and community-minded, he envisions a city with a healthy balance of community connection and smart civic development while retaining historic old town appeal. So what does this dream city look like? Here’s a hint: Don’t stop believing!

“I always view my life through music more than anything. I’ve always had this way of Weird Al Yankoviching songs and take a lyric and apply it to anything.  For me, the one I’m drawn to most is “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. It’s got a great message in the chorus.”

And this idea of believing in the possibilities of great things is just the start.

“We’ve got so many things going on,” Says Simison, “All kinds of people coming in with opportunities. We’ve got office space mixing with retail entertainment. We have Old Town residences and the Loft commercial spaces; parks, schools, and revitalizing the downtown. This is all going on and is exciting!”

His excitement is contagious - and spreading quickly. Second only to nearby Star, Meridian is the next fastest growing city in Idaho. And with its unique flavor of rural agricultural roots paired with family-friendly neighborhoods - and a healthy supply of retail spaces - it’s no wonder that the Treasure Valley’s best kept secret continues to stay harder and harder to keep.

Centrally located in the Treasure Valley, Meridian has deep roots in Idaho’s agricultural culture. A little lesson in Idaho history: the name ‘Meridian’ was changed back in 1893 by the Order of Odd Fellows from the small village of “Hunter” as an homage to Idaho’s surveyor’s meridian, the ‘Meridian Road’ which passed through town.

A generational Idahoan, Simison also shares a bit of Gem State history with his own upbringing. Living on the edge of Pocatello, and the youngest of his siblings, Simison grew up under the auspices of the 80’s; a time of latchkey kids and neighbors who always seemed around to lend a helping hand.

Says Simison, “I grew up on five acres, with a more rural lifestyle.”

Splitting time between his mother’s home in Pocatello and his father’s place near Eagle Island State Park, young Simison enjoyed a unique opportunity to learn about life in the Treasure Valley.

“My dad would spend his summer time off from teaching high school and work locally, and that was how I saw Meridian. It had a Bronco Billy-esque, old town focus.”

And though Simison would travel out of Idaho to attend Whitman College in Washington, he never forgot his Idaho roots.

“As student body president, I was working on a project in my senior year and needed to speak to a politician. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Cecil Andrus, who was governor at the time. On Monday, I wrote a letter requesting to speak with him. On Thursday, I called the office. And on Friday, I sat with the governor to conduct my interview.”

This idea of encouraged-accessibility, especially to the highest elected official of the state, never left Simison’s impressionable young mind.

Simison states, “All things matter. Local levels, national levels. Words matter and rules, laws, and ordinances matter. And showing up sometimes matters more than words.”

In his elected duties, Simison often finds himself showing up on all levels, whether it’s meetings for traffic plans, school board discussions, real estate development, or talking to an Eagle Scout who’s earning their badge.  Meeting the community on this accessible level has been instrumental to the job Simison holds today.

“Meridian is developing its identity in the Treasure Valley. It’s like when you have a high school, you build an economy around the community, creating community clusters.” And how do you build community clusters in an expansive area like Meridian that often has one mile arterial roadways?

It’s about development and planning.

“You create centers where these roads intersect, creating connections.” With 33.97 square miles of land, Meridian has a lot of unique opportunities for creating these connections. “We offer very different options for livability, whether it’s downtown accessibility, larger land opportunities, or homes in neighborhoods near parks and pathways.” Simison lives this example since moving to Meridian from the Treasure Valley in 2013.  He knows all about the simple pleasures found in living here.

“My perfect day in Meridian? Spending time in my backyard. Sitting by the fire pit, grilling out. Enjoying the nice weather. Watching people using the pathway behind our house. And enjoying our great community.”

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