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(Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune) Milton Hanks, mayor of Eureka, carries one of his paintings into his home. Hanks, who cemented his reputation as a controversial figure at the recent state Republican convention, wants to clean up Eureka. Some residents say he's done little to nothing to help revitalize the town.
Mayor of Eureka: The man who blew up Utah GOP convention
Politics » Tirade at the mic isn’t his main problem – residents don’t trust him.
First Published May 12 2012 05:22 pm • Last Updated Aug 28 2012 11:33 pm

Eureka » It takes about three minutes, going the 35 mph speed limit, to drive through this old mining town on Highway 6 on the way to the sand dunes out west.

It takes Billy Baum considerably less time to say something negative about the city’s mayor, Milton Hanks.

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"I guess I know him better than most," Baum said. "The guy, in my mind, is a flim-flam man."

The lanky 75-year-old settled onto a step under a low overhang that drew wasps so large they could be heard bumping into wood. A dusty Skil saw lay on the concrete patio surrounded by a faded, uneven stick fence. Around the corner from where he sat was a row of storefronts that looked as if they’d gone 15 rounds with a recession and lost.

That, in fact, might be the only thing Baum and Hanks agree on — there is a desperate need for economic stimulus in the Juab County town. In fact, both mention Park City as a model of what they’d like Eureka to be. But while they both want it, neither seems to trust the other to do it the right way.

The problem for Hanks is fewer in town seem to trust him. Public confidence in him wasn’t bolstered any by his recent long-shot run for Congress and the events that thrust him into the spotlight on April 21.

Convention chaos » On that Saturday, Hanks arrived at the state Republican convention having the longest of long odds to secure the nomination for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District and dropped a bombshell when it was his turn at the microphone.

When he spoke, it wasn’t about tax policy or balancing the budget. Instead, it was an angry tirade about backroom politics, about deals and conspiracies against Chris Stewart orchestrated by other top-tier candidates through a last-minute letter that few delegates claim to have actually seen.

His explosive comments led to chaos and, eventually, Stewart securing the nomination without a primary. The state party investigated.


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"I have no way to prove or disprove what was said," Hanks said. "The party couldn’t determine it either, so I don’t feel bad."

But the events left many wondering who Hanks was.

For Hanks, who isn’t prone to giving short answers, it’s a complicated stew of careers, hobbies and ambitions spanning several states but usually leading back to two passions: sailing and painting.

"I wanted to be an artist," he said, sitting in the Eureka City Council Chambers. "But I had seven kids, and that killed my art career. The joke is I screwed myself out of being an artist."

He has a sailboat in Eureka and said that once his mayoral term ends in 2013, he might head out to the ocean again. Hanks said he’s going to be a one-term mayor because he’s a strict believer in term limits.

That suits Sharon Brewer just fine.

­—

‘Anybody’ but Hanks » Brewer owns This and That, an antique store on Main Street. She said if the mayor did run again, she’d have an easy choice — the person not named Milt Hanks.

"Anybody but him," she said. "My big, fat dog. Anybody."

Brewer calls herself a "newbie" to Eureka, even though she’s lived there for more than 30 years. She said Hanks is never around, doesn’t own property in the city and seems to go out of his way to stymie business development.

She accused him of creating hurdles for Baum to restore the storefronts, dragging his feet on promises — including one made early in his term to bring a cellphone tower to the area.

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