The candidates vying for four-year seats on the West Valley City Council describe themselves as problem solvers. Their differences show up in their priorities and how they plan to achieve their goals.
On Nov. 5, voters will decide in the nonpartisan election who represents them in two districts and in one at-large seat.
At-large • This seat, which is up for a citywide vote, will be vacated in January by Don Christensen, who ran for mayor and was defeated in an August primary. Hoping to replace him are West Valley City Planning Commission Chairman Phil Conder, who wants to make major changes, and math teacher Lars Nordfelt, who supports minor course corrections.
If elected, Conder said, he will push the council to fire City Manager Wayne Pyle. He says Pyle and now-retired police chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen have created a “very negative culture” and decisive action is needed because of a controversy over dismissed drug cases and the fatal shooting by detectives of an unarmed woman.
“The most important issue far and away is to restore trust and credibility in specifically the police and in the city in general,” he said.
Conder acknowledges he has a personal beef with Pyle about the way the city manager handled his complaint about alleged inaccuracies in a police report on a custody dispute between Conder and his estranged wife. The incident gave him insight into the a credibility problem with law enforcement, he said.
Nordfelt believes Pyle has done a good job and applauds the city for calling for an outside investigation and making changes to the citizen board that reviews complaints against police. He supports putting policies in place to ensure mistakes do not happen again.
Nordfelt said his No. 1 issue is the city’s long-term future, which includes continuing to bring in good businesses and develop walkable communities. He also would work to find a balance between residents who complain enforcement of the city code regulating yard and house upkeep is too strict and those who worry that rundown homes are hurting their property values, he said.
“What we need right now in our city is someone who is a great problem solver,” Nordfelt said.
Because of his background in math, which includes service as president of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, he is able to gather all facts and methodically arrive at a solution, Nordfelt said.
Conder also touts his problem-solving ability, as well as his experience dealing with big budgets as an employee of theSalt Lake County Treasurer’s Officeand withplanning matters during a decade on the planning commission.
District 2 • In the southeast part of West Valley, incumbent Steve Buhler is running for his second term against challenger Jeff White.
For Buhler, the most important issue is “always services for residents” — including police and fire protection, roads and parks and economic development — that make West Valley City a good place to live, work, play and raise children.
White said residents have told him that unfair enforcement of code violations, such as having an unmowed lawn, is one of their biggest concerns. He wants to keep the ordinances related to health and safety and get rid of some of the others.
Citizens also are concerned about taxes and still bothered by an 18 percent increase approved two years ago by the council, according to White, who also is critical of tax incentives to bring businesses to the city. “I believe government is supposed to support private business but not subsidize it,” he said.
Buhler said he struggled with the tax increase but voted for it because sales tax revenue went down more than $8 million in one year and West Valley needed to meet its obligations. He pointed out that most of the city budget is payroll and most of the payroll is for police and firefighters.
“I had to decide whether to close a fire station and lay off police officers,” Buhler said.
Both candidates says their experience gives them an edge.
White said his career has been spent finding and eliminating waste. “To solve problems, I think outside the box,” he said.
Buhler said as an attorney, he is a “professional problem solver” and analyzes situations and looks for unintended consequences.
District 4 • Salt Lake Community College professor Mary Jayne Newton-Davis and incumbent Steve Vincent, who is running for his fourth term, are battling to represent residents in the southwest part of West Valley.
Vincent wants to bolster neighborhood policing and continue working to revitalize older areas. A priority of Newton-Davis, a former West Valley City planning commissioner, is preservation of open space and the creation of more parks and trail.
Vincent — who says he became involved with West Valley government 15 years ago as a member of the Board of Adjustment because the city was saturated with starter houses and had a shortage of bigger homes — supports having low-interest loans to fix up residences.
“We have a lot of neighborhoods that were built way before the city was incorporated and those neighborhoods need a lot of attention,” he said.
As a lifelong resident of West Valley, Newton-Davis says she is running because it was time “to put my voice to a little better use and attempt to make a difference.”
In addition to more open space, Newton-Davis wants to boost transportation options. In addition, she wants to foster a sense of community by bringing residents, including seniors and youths, together to work on projects and offer a diversity of ideas.
Age • 47
Residency • 20 years
Occupation • Budget and administrative officer
Education • Bachelor’s degree in math, University of Utah
Age • 45
Residency • 28 years
Occupation • Math teacher
Education • Master’s degree in math, Brigham Young University
Age • 49
Residency • 18 years
Occupation • Attorney
Education • Law degree, University of Utah
Age • 44
Residency • 7 years
Occupation • Research and development systems specialist
Education • Associate of science degree, Salt Lake Community College
Mary Jayne Newton-Davis
Age • 69
Residency • 69 years
Occupation • English professor, Salt Lake Community College
Education • Master’s degree in English and women’s studies, University of Utah
Age • 56
Residency • 33 years
Occupation • Project manager
Education • Attended the University of Utah