Dennis Phillips, the Mayor of Downey, symbolically calls his quiet little city “Mayberry, Idaho.” The town of 650 is a haven for framers, ranchers, and people who love a small-town atmosphere, and its access to outdoor life. Mayor Phillips talked about his hometown in this Q and A interview with the E Journal Extra.
Q: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
A: I was born in Downey in 1951, I’m 60 years old, and I’ve lived here all my life, except during the time I was in the Army stationed in Germany.
Q: Do you have personal hobbies or pastimes that you’d like to tell us about?
A: Well, I like to spend time with my kids and grandkids. I like to go hunting, fishing, and camping, and there’s a lot of opportunity for that around Downey. I love it here.
Q: Do you have another job besides being the Mayor of Downey?
A: I’ve worked for the Downey Highway District for 25 years. We maintain 170 miles of road. I also used to work as a mechanic for Marsh Valley Equipment, a John Deere dealership.
Q: What led you to get involved in city government in Downey? How long have you been Mayor?
A: I felt that the community has given me so much, it was time for me to give back. I had been volunteering all my life. I enjoy working for people and with people.
I was a City Councilman for six years. I’m on my second 4-year term as Mayor.
Q: What would be your goals for your work in Downey? Or to put in another way, in four or five years time, what kinds of improvements would you like to see in Downey?
A: One of the goals we’ve already completed is a water distribution project for the whole city. It’s the best thing we ever did. We have a spring-fed and gravity-activated water system now.
One of the things I would like to accomplish as Mayor in the rest of my term is to build a new community center and city office. The building that the offices are in now was built at the turn of the century.
Q: What are the major industries/businesses in the area? What kinds of other industries or types of businesses would the Downey area like to expand into?
A: We are a farm-based economy with lots of farmers and ranchers. The school also provides employment. We would welcome all kinds of businesses and industries in the industrial park. We would like anything that would keep the kids here.
Q: What are some of the main issues/challenges facing businesses in Downey and the surrounding area?
A: Staying alive. Keeping businesses going. During the 60’s my brother and I had a service station in Downey, right at the junction of the two highways. This place was cooking then. But when the freeway went in, and bypassed Downey, it started a decline.
Q: How do you think Downey has weathered the recession?
A: Well, we’ll make it. Everybody here helps each other, and almost every body in town knows each other.
Q: How would you describe the local economy there now? Are things getting better, staying about the same? How about the unemployment situation around there?
A: Well, I see a bright future in Downey. We are a bedroom community, and we have the lowest crime rate in Bannock County. We joke that the only time people know that Downey is in Bannock County is at tax time and deer season. But there’s a good quality of life here, and utilities are low.
Q: What positive things are occurring in Downey that you would like to tell us about?
A: Right now we are building a new firehouse that will house our fire trucks, ambulance, and search and rescue. That will be a huge asset to the community. We also want to clean up the areas next to the highways, and get rid of old eyesores. We’d like to rebuild he image of Downey so that it is more attractive.
Right now this is the 100th birthday of Downey, and we’ll be celebrating that on July 21st. It was incorporated in 1912. Two books are being published for the centennial. One is a book on area history, about the area of the zip code 83234. The other book is about family histories.
We also have the South Bannock County Fair here in August.
Q. What is the best thing about living in Downey? What does Downey have to offer families and/or potential businesses that is unique?
A: Well, we are in the black financially; we’re fiscally conservative. This is a great place to raise kids.
I think the best thing about Downey is its people. It’s a really great atmosphere. There are no major contentions. It’s a laid back town; it’s like Mayberry, Idaho. A lot of people don’t realize how much we have here until they leave it.
Eniko Jordan for the Idaho State Journal.