The mayor of Rexburg said he feels there is a divide between BYU-Idaho students and the residents of Rexburg and plans to address it.
Jerry Merrill, Rexburg mayor, said that too often, students complain there is nothing to do in Rexburg, and residents complain the town is being overrun with college students.
“One of my goals is to help the students at BYU-Idaho, as well as the residents of Rexburg, not feel like two separate communities,” Merrill said.
He said sporting events at Ricks College brought the townspeople and the students together, but after the sporting events were disbanded, it became harder for students and residents to feel united.
“We were all excited to get this big rival with BYU in Provo, and they said it wasn’t going to happen,” Merrill said. “That became a little bit of a dividing point.”
Merrill said he hopes to unite the school and the city again with many activities, such as service projects and festival events that will involve both students and Rexburg residents.
He said BYU-I students are essential to the success of Rexburg and cannot be neglected from the community.
“I tell people we never ever, ever have to complain about being overrun by college kids, because we have the greatest student body in the world here in Rexburg, Idaho,” Merrill said.
Eric Conrad, university services managing director, said that over the past few years, the university has worked hard to develop a strong relationship with the City of Rexburg.
“I think sometimes people say the two of them are kind of separated, but I don’t know if they are as separated as people think,” Conrad said. “It does take time and energy, but we have to remember the first thing is to take care of students.”
Conrad said he meets with local leaders at least every other day to discuss community needs.
“I just had lunch with the fire chief, and I met with the mayor in Boise,” Conrad said.
Conrad said BYU-I students pay taxes like everyone else, and therefore have an obligation to be active in the community.
“I think we all want to be good citizens and do good wherever we live,” Conrad said.
Brandon Penrod, a senior studying automotive technology, said he and his wife get involved in the community by attending plays at local theaters and city-sponsored activities.
“A lot of people say there is nothing to do in Rexburg,” Penrod said. “That is because they do not try to get involved in the community.”
Merrill said his hope is to turn Rexburg into the friendliest town in the world.
“In Fourth Nephi, there’s a passage that says the people lived together without any strife and were the happiest people on earth,” Merrill said. “That’s what I want Rexburg to be. I want us to be the happiest people upon the face of the earth. That’s my goal.”