Tom Vialpando outside Vale City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 5. He was elected mayor and takes office in January 2021. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)

VALE – Tom Vialpando used to think Vale was a pretty small place.

Until he ran for mayor.

“When you walk it, it grows in size,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando knows more about the streets and driveways of Vale now than he ever thought was possible. That’s because for several weeks leading up to the vote for mayor, he walked around town, handing out brochures and talking to people.

Vialpando’s efforts paid off Nov. 3 when he defeated incumbent Vale mayor Mike McLaughlin by 22 votes. The final, unofficial, tally showed Vialpando won 371-349.

“I am very excited to work with the council, the city employees and the citizens,” said Vialpando last week.

The narrow victory ended a 12-year run as mayor for McLaughlin.

“I am disappointed by the outcome. It’s been a weird year. The Covid virus has made the job a little different and super difficult for me to campaign,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said it “was a pleasure to serve the city of Vale.”

“I’ve been through six city managers and probably more than a dozen council members,” he said.

McLaughlin said he will “help set up the city for Tom’s administration.”

Vialpando is a relative newcomer to the city – he moved to Vale about two years ago from Port Orchard, Wash., – and he began his campaign for mayor in June.

Vialpando, 50, is a partner in an online laser business, Imagine That of Treasure Valley. A native of Pocatello, Idaho, Vialpando is a U.S. Air Force veteran who graduated from Idaho State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

He said his success was based on a creating a high public profile and talking to residents daily.

“One thing I did was make sure I was out and about. I handed out 500 brochures,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando started his campaign in June by parking his truck that sported a large banner in the empty lot next to Logans Market. The message of the banner was simple: Vote for Tom. Also, on the banner was a prompt to visit Vialpando’s Facebook page.

The vague nature of the political banner was intentional, said Vialpando.

“I wanted people to say, ‘Who is Tom?’”

The second phase of his campaign, said Vialpando, was printing and distributing his brochures.

“The third phase was canvasing the city. I flooded the town with brochures. A lot of it was just walking around town. I worked my butt off,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said the close to the mayor’s race means he “still has work to do.”

“My big thing will be to unify. Between Covid and the election, we are all divided. Right now, is the perfect time, if you want to save money for Christmas, to start talking politics with your family,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said one of his goals will be to “revitalize our downtown and attract new businesses.”

A key piece for the future, he said, is a vibrant Chamber of Commerce.

“A lot of grants come through that way,” he said.

Another crucial piece in Vialpando’s plan is more interaction between elected leaders and the community.

“We have to have buy-in,” he said.

Vialpando said the city must focus on modest goals, such as completing beautification projects and continued support of the Vale Mural Society, as building blocks so people driving through Vale “have a reason to stop.”

The city can help, he said, up to a point.

“We have 27 employees and they can’t do everything for the city, but you can have volunteers and interns, so I want to form partnerships with the players around here, TVCC, WorkSource Oregon, Community in Action,” he said.

Tweaks to existing infrastructure will also be important in the future, said Vialpando.

“I know there are a lot of people who are frustrated about the airport because there is no fuel. People can fly in, but they can’t fly out because there is no way to refuel,” said Vialpando.

He wants to find a way to fix that issue.

Most of all, said Vialpando, he wants input from the public about how the city should move forward.

“The big thing is asking people, ‘What do you want?’” said Vialpando.

Tom Vialpando in downtown Vale on Thursday, Nov. 5. He was elected mayor and takes office in January 2021. He wants to help revitalize the local business district. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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