Justus leaves position on Ontario City Council with no regrets

Marty Justus ended his five-year local political career in Ontario recently and said he departs with no ill will and a with a sense of accomplishment. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – Marty Justus said it is time to pass the torch.

Justus, a local real estate agent and owner of Four Star Real Estate, spent five years as an Ontario city councilor but attended his final meeting recently.

“I’ve made my mark and I am happy,” said Justus.

Justus’ departure from the council marks a turning point of sorts as a new crop of councilors take their seats.

Sam Baker, John Kirby, Eddie Melendrez are newcomers. Ken Hart was appointed to the council last fall.

Justus joined Norm Crume, Dan Capron and Ramon Palomo as outgoing councilmembers.

The veterans remaining on the council include Mayor Riley Hill, Councilors Michael Braden and Freddy Rodriguez.

Councilors serve in nonpartisan roles and are volunteers who do not get a salary but do get a modest monthly stipend. The council sets city policies, approves the city budget and supervises Ontario City Manager Adam Brown. Brown oversees the day-to-day operations of the city.

Justus, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor two years ago, said he worries the new council isn’t as varied as it could be.

“The council was very diverse when I started. Now we have all guys again and I am disappointed in that,” said Justus.

Justus was appointed to the council in 2015 and said he believes his best “claim to fame” was supporting the hiring of Brown.

“He brought stability and organization. We haven’t had a city hall scandal in five years,” said Justus.

Justus said the most surprising part of his council tenure was the amount of time the volunteer gig consumes. He said at the same time his “business is booming” so he found he faced two competing priorities.

“My business is at a place where I have to devote more time to it,” said Justus.

Justus said his council tenure also delivered a few learning lessons.

“It can be brutal. Just because I think it is the right way to go doesn’t necessarily mean the town will go along with it,” said Justus.

Justus said one of his big regrets was the failure of a 1% sales tax proposal in 2018.

“I still firmly believe we should have passed it,” said Justus.

Justus said that while the city is financially in better shape due in large part to the influx of marijuana sales tax revenue, that might not last.

“We are getting an abundance of marijuana sales money, but it won’t be long before Idaho puts it on the ballot and we have competition from Idaho,” said Justus.

Justus said he is most proud of his involvement in the community. He said he believes his work on the effort to fund and build the city splash pad will be a lasting, good memory.

“I was very interested in making the splash pad happen. So, I think it was the breaking ground for it and seeing it to fruition that stands out,” said Justus.

Justus said he was also a big supporter of Revitalize Ontario, a non-profit economic development group aimed to bring growth to downtown.

Justus said his council tour also “opened his eyes to workings of government.”

“Government is not a business. It is easy to say, you can make it run like a business, but government is not a business. Does it need to be efficient? Yes. But it has to be for all people. Government is for the people, by the people, not just part of the people,” said Justus.

Justus said he is optimistic about Ontario’s future

“I think we are having economic growth, a windfall because of the growth of the other side of the Treasure Valley despite ourselves,” said Justus.

Justus said there is more work to be done, though.

“We don’t cater to our youth and we have a long way to go but we are making strides.

Adam (Brown) has a vision for the city and this something we can all get behind,” said Justus.

Justus said his best advice to incoming city councilors is to look at every angle of an issue before deciding.

“The most important thing you do is for the citizens and the community and not for yourself, not in appeasing the mayor or making someone else happy. One of the things that I did is I insisted on a debate. We just didn’t vote to vote,” said Justus.

Justus said he leaves the council satisfied.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Ontario,” said Justus.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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