Blackfoot city councilman John 'Butch' Hulse lost his battle with a congenital lung disease on Friday. Hulse was in Salt Lake City, Utah, awaiting placement on the list for a lung transplant.
"That makes me sad," said Leah Rigby, the former executive director of the Greater Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho Potato Museum. Hulse was a respected member of the board of the museum and a former president of the Chamber.
"He has been very good for Blackfoot," Rigby said. "You couldn't ask for a nicer or more concerned man. He was frustrated that his health wouldn't allow him to do the things he wanted to do."
Hulse was a Blackfoot native who attended St. Margaret's School through the eighth grade. He graduated from Blackfoot High School.
"I couldn't wait to get out of Blackfoot," he said of leaving for military service. He stayed away for much of his life, but got heavily in the community when he returned in the late 90's.
Mayor Mike Virtue said he has known Hulse since high school.
"Butch ultimately returned to Blackfoot in 1993," Virtue said. "He has taken an active role in the community including president of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the Bingham Economic Development Corporation, coordinator of the Concerts in the Park for many years and numerous other community organizations."
Gordon Wankier of Zions Bank said he has known Hulse for a dozen years.
"He was always 'let's do something, let's try something," Wankier said. "He always wanted to do something to build our community and make it better."
Toward that end, Wankier said, Hulse ran for city council three or four times and also ran for the state senate and the state house of representatives.
He ran for mayor in 2007 against Virtue.
"Butch took the opportunity early to inform me (not in a threatening manner by any means) that he was challenging my candidacy," Virtue recalled. "He was a gentlemen in every way during the campaign.
"I first met Butch seven or eight years ago," said Jonathan Harris, president of the museum board. "He stood out as somebody who always wanted to do the right thing for the right reason.
"It's a tremendous loss to our community that he's no longer with us," Harris said.
Hulse was elected to the city council last November. He was also serving as vice president of the museum board at the time of his death.
"Butch had a real interest in politics, not for any selfish reasons," Harris said. "But so he could affect change for the better.
"He was instrumental in many things, including Music in the Park, the Parade of Lights, and the community bonfires after Christmas," Harris added. "He just made stuff happen, and I will miss him."
Of Hulse's service on the City Council Virtue said, "Butch acted with professionalism during the nine months he served. He wanted to learn about the city functions, budgets, etc. to become more effective in his position. He was considerate and listened to the concerns and input of the members of the community.
"It will be a challenge to find someone to fill his position," the mayor said.
"This has been a difficult year with the loss of two councilmen and three in slightly over two years," Virtue said, noting the deaths of Chris Gardner and Ferrell Cammack. "In all cases, these gentlemen served with a desire to make things better, and, those who have been appointed to fill these positions, have done an excellent job under these unusual circumstances. It has been and continues to be a privilege to serve with these dedicated gentlemen.
Virtue continued, "We will miss Butch's contribution, not only to the City Council, but to all of the many activities to which he has contributed so significantly.
"Butch called me last week from Salt Lake to express his desire to support the Council and the City and let me know he would be available and would provide support by phone as necessary," Virtue said." In this final conversation, Butch sounded positive and optimistic about his condition, an attitude he maintained until the end, as he had during his entire life."
Wankier noted, "he never complained about his illness. He was always positive."
Professionally, Hulse was a hairdresser who had worked with the now famous Paul Mitchell years ago. He had owned Trios and Haircuts in town. He had also worked as a concierge at Bingham Memorial Hospital.