WVC Mayor-elect's priorities include police and planning
West Valley City • Ron Bigelow's priorities right after winning election as mayor of Utah's second-largest city were to pick up his 1,000-plus campaign signs and take a delayed family vacation to California.
Next up: Meeting with West Valley City administrators and elected officials to prepare to take the helm in January of the 133,000-population city, which has been through some trying times.
Bigelow had not intended to run at first, even though friends and acquaintances were encouraging him to do so. He changed his mind the day before the candidate filing period began in June.
"There were some challenges we were facing," he said. "It didn't seem most candidates were talking about the real issues."
His priorities are to restore trust in the West Valley City Police Department, to set up a long-term financial plan for the municipality and to ensure that ordinances on property upkeep are enforced fairly.
Although his position is part-time, Bigelow, a retired certified public accountant, plans to work full time at first.
"I'm not afraid of work," he said. "I will do what's necessary for the job."
Transition • Mayor Mike Winder opted not to run for a second term, citing the need for a full-time job to support his family. He said the retired Bigelow won't have the time constraints he faced. And Bigelow's "sharp financial mind" will serve him well.
"Ron is very well-respected in our community," Winder said, "and I think he'll be a terrific mayor."
Under West Valley's form of government, the mayor serves as chairman of the council and is a voting member of that body. To achieve his goals, Bigelow will need support from the other six council members.
The mayor-elect believes he and the other members including Tom Huynh and Karen Lang, who were his opponents in the race will work well together. Lang and Huynh are midway through their first four-year terms on the council.
The other members are Corey Rushton; Steve Buhler and Steve Vincent, who both won re-election earlier this month; and Lars Nordfelt, who won the at-large seat currently held by Don Christensen, who lost a bid for the mayor's seat in an August primary.
Bigelow and Lang, a business owner, were the top two vote-getters among seven candidates in the primary he earned 37 percent of the vote, she got 17 percent and advanced to the Nov. 5 general election. Bigelow won with almost 61 percent of the vote to Lang's 39 percent.
"It's not about swaying," Bigelow said of working with the other council members. "It's about discussing and coming up with the best solution."
He praised Lang for her "upbeat, professional campaign." In their campaigning, both emphasized the need for long-term planning to set priorities and to ensure there will be money available for projects.
Police controversy • Their views split on the police department, which has been the center of controversy revolving around allegations of mishandled evidence in some narcotics cases and last year's fatal shooting by two detectives of Danielle Willard during an alleged drug bust. Bigelow ranked restoring trust in law enforcement as a priority, while Lang attributed the problems to a few "bad apples" who have been dealt with.
Lang and Huyhn believe they will work well with Bigelow.
"I think he'll be a good mayor," Huynh said.
Another primary candidate for the mayor's position, former West Valley City Council member Margaret Peterson, described Bigelow as "very well-spoken and very intelligent."
"He'll represent the city well," she said.
Peterson added that she believes Bigelow should include transparency in government, particularly when it comes to the police department, among his priorities.
Bigelow said restoring public faith in the police will be an evolving process that will take a few years and he wants to fully disclose all of the steps being taken. Public opinion will serve as a barometer, he said, and negative feedback will show that the city isn't doing enough.
He also plans to get public input on all issues at meetings with neighborhood groups and other organizations. A common complaint he heard while campaigning door-to-door, Bigelow said, was "the city doesn't listen."
"The more we listen to our citizens, the more confidence they'll have in the government," he said.
Polishing WVC's image • In addition, Bigelow wants to improve the image of the city, which he believes suffers from an unfair reputation for crime and rundown neighborhoods. In truth, West Valley is a safe, family-oriented community with nice homes in a number of price ranges, he said.
"For all of the media hype, for most of us who live out here, it's very safe," said Bigelow, a 36-year resident of West Valley City. "The people who live here understand what it's really like."
Vinn Roos, a West Valley resident who assisted Bigelow in his campaign, says his friend will be successful as mayor. He described Bigelow as a unifier who wants input from people on all sides of an issue.
"He wants to make the best decision he can," Roos said. "He wants to know where we're going so he can have a plan. He's one of the wisest persons I've known."
Ron Bigelow, 64, is a certified public accountant who represented West Valley City in the Utah House from 1995 until he gave up the seat in late 2010 to become state budget director. He retired from that position in January. Before that, Bigelow was a finance manager with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 28 years.