West Valley City election issues include boosting business and restoring faith in police
With West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder deciding against a run for a second term, the field of candidates vying to replace him is a little crowded.
Seven candidates who want to lead the state's second-largest city are on the ballot in Tuesday's primary, along with three candidates running for an at-large seat on the city council. The top two candidates in each race will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
The 10 candidates in Tuesday's primary are running at a controversial time for the city.
On Thursday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that the use of deadly force by two West Valley City police detectives who shot and killed an unarmed woman was not justified. Gill's office is screening possible criminal charges against the officers, who deny any wrongdoing in the November shooting of Danielle Willard.
The police department also has been under investigation for alleged mishandling of evidence that led to the dismissal of 125 drug cases and its handling of the case of missing West Valley mother Susan Powell.
Longtime police chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen retired in March; West Valley officials say they are close to selecting his replacement
Winder who cited the need for a full-time job to support his family in his decision not to seek re-election said the controversy will wane.
"Because the police investigations are running their course and a new police chief will soon be in place, the new mayor should have calmer waters there," Winder said. "The main challenge for the next mayor will be helping to turn around negative perceptions about the city out there that do not match the reality of our continually improving community."
The police situation is the most high-profile issue in the election, but the candidates are focused on much more. Among the other issues they cite are improving neighborhoods, protecting property owner rights, bringing in more businesses to West Valley, ensuring that the government is accountable to its citizens, spending money wisely and avoiding tax increases.
Mayor's race • Ron Bigelow, 64, former Utah state budget director, said getting a new chief will help restore confidence in police. He also says his background in budgeting will make the city stronger and that he wants to boost economic development.
Don Christensen, 68, a retired educator who is completing his first term as an at-large council member, wants to improve accountability in government, including the police department, by, among other steps, have the city manager report more regularly about problems. He also wants to encourage business recruitment and continue to work to lower the crime rate.
Tom Huynh, 46, a Realtor serving his first term on the council, wants to foster a business-friendly atmosphere with lower fees and less red tape and avoid any tax increase by boosting economic growth. He wants to work closely with the police to help restore public trust in law enforcement.
Karen Lang, 53, owner of Oakbridge Greenhouse, who also is serving her first term on the council, wants to streamline city operations and make sure money is spent responsibly so residents don't get taxed out of their homes. She wants to plan responsibly for growth and include schools in the process so they know the impact new subdivisions will have.
Jeffrey Mackay, 58, a businessman, wants to contract with the Unified Police Department for city law-enforcement services to help restore trust in the police. He also wants to get rid of the city manager and make the mayor's job a full-time position to both save money and give elected officials more control over municipal operations.
Margaret Peterson, 66, who served as an at-large city council member for 17 years before choosing not to seek a sixth term in 2007, jumped into the race before Winder announced that he wasn't running. She wants to change the culture of the police department by initiating an external independent review, improve education by increasing resources and partnerships and bring more businesses to the city.
Alex Segura, 56, an electrical controls engineer and co-founder of the Utah Minutemen, said his priorities include streamlining city operations and getting rid of redundant positions. He also wants government to be more open and responsive to residents' concerns.
Council race • In the at-large race, Phil Conder, 47, chairman of the West Valley City Planning Commission who works for the Salt Lake County Treasurer's Office, wants to clean up problems on the police force and would replace current City Manager Wayne Pyle, who has oversight over the department. He wants to further positive growth and development in the city.
Joe Garcia, 34, a planning commission member who works for a credit union, said he would like to create community councils to give citizens a voice and work to restore citizen trust in the police. Another priority would be to limit pawn shops in the city.
Math teacher Lars Nordfelt, 45, wants to make sure the rights of property owners are protected when property maintenance codes are enforced and would like to simplify those regulations. He also wants to restore confidence in the police force by making sure officers are well-trained and promote sustainability through recycling and mass transit.
As the primary gets close, some candidates are spending big and some are spending small in their try for public office.
Campaign finance reports show that Segura has raised no money and spent just $25, for his filing fee. On the other end of spectrum, Peterson has raised more than $18,000. Visit http://bit.ly/12P6QWX to view the reports.
West Valley City primary
A primary on Tuesday will narrow the field for mayor and the at-large City Council member to two each for the Nov. 5 general election.
Running in the general election only are Steve Buhler and Jeff White for the District 2 council seats and Mary Jayne Newton-Davis and Steve Vincent and for the District 4 seat.