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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) To get to know unincorporated residents and their concerns, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams embarked on a "township tour" that concluded with a meeting at the Utah Olympic Oval and fielded questions and noted concerns in Kearns, Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams settling in after post-election flurry

Salt Lake County » New mayor busy with township, legislative, economic development initiatives.

First Published Apr 22 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 22 2013 07:47 am

Until last week, Ben Mc­Adams had not decorated the Salt Lake County mayor’s office he inherited Jan. 7 from Peter Corroon.

He hadn’t had time, not that it mattered much since he was rarely there, having been steadily on the go since even before his inauguration.

At a glance

Some McAdams moves in first 100 days

Fulfilled a pledge to be bipartisan, hiring Republican Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall as his public works director.

Put more county attention on unincorporated communities, creating township executive position to respond directly to their needs.

Got to know more about those issues through a series of meetings in townships.

Helped secure funding for an environmental impact statement to examine transportation issues in the Wasatch Mountains’ canyons.

Oversaw finalization of contracts to keep the Outdoor Retailer trade shows in Salt Lake City through 2016 and govern the ownership and operations of the Utah Performing Arts Center.

Agreed to participate with Draper in an effort to develop land around the city’s FrontRunner station.

Staked a claim to a seat on the board that will determine the Utah State Prison’s future.

Came close to securing state funding for part of a 1,000-room hotel near the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

Office decorations a nod to county, family

Mayor Ben McAdams’ office decorations include:

A photograph of county-owned Rose Canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains, a reminder of “how we need to be actively working to preserve open space and outdoor recreation.”

A poster of a FrontRunner train that he hopes to pair with a poster of a TRAX train on the new airport line.

Drawings by youths that “show what we have in the community, what’s good about Salt Lake County.”

A photograph of his family at his inauguration ceremony.

Ceramic masterpieces crafted by his kids.

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Right away, McAdams launched a series of meetings across the townships, following up on a campaign commitment to pay closer attention to unincorporated communities.

Then the former Democratic state senator was up on Capitol Hill, lobbying the GOP-led Legislature for county-related bills, most notably seeking state funding for a convention-center headquarters hotel (he failed) and an environmental study of transportation in the Wasatch Mountains (he succeeded).

Along the way, he also did what mayors do — building his staff, attending County Council and other meetings, going to dedications, traveling to national conferences.

"There’s not enough time in a day to do everything we want to do," McAdams said in an interview Wednesday, the 100th day of his term. Still, he added, "We hit the ground running and feel good about where we are. We’ve accomplished a lot of things right out of the gate."

Two veteran county councilmen, Republican Michael Jensen and Democrat Jim Bradley, have been impressed with McAdams’ debut.

"Overall, I’d give him a pretty decent grade," said Jensen, a Magna resident and Unified Fire Authority chief.

"In our [Republican] caucus, we feel like we have a good working relationship with the mayor," he added. "We’re not going to agree with everything he wants. We have different ways and styles of doing things. But we all feel he’ll listen to what our side wants."

Bradley, who has been on the council as long as Jensen (since 2001) and was a county commissioner before that, said, "I can’t think of anything to complain about."

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While he had initial concerns about McAdams’ age — he’s 38 — Bradley said the mayor quickly bridged the generation gap with older bureaucrats and councilmen. "He didn’t let the age difference bother him," Bradley said. "He is very bright, thoughtful and understands the strategies of politics and getting things done. And his hires have been excellent."

Both councilmen praised McAdams for retaining Nichole Dunn from the Corroon administration as deputy mayor, guiding a smooth transition between Democratic executives.

They also were pleased by the mayor’s first new hire — selecting Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall, a Republican, to run public works and shifting former department director Patrick Leary into a new post as "township executive," essentially the city manager for 160,000 unincorporated-area residents.

"Being an unincorporated-area resident myself, I really like that," said Jensen. Added Bradley: "It’s a terrific strategy and responsive to the needs of unincorporated people who now feel they have a relationship with the county."

McAdams said last fall’s unsuccessful effort to make Millcreek a city convinced him that "We could do a better job giving [unincorporated-area residents] more direct representation."

Besides making Leary a point person to handle their concerns, McAdams embarked on his township tour to learn about the disparate issues that concern people from Copperton to Emigration Canyon. "It was a great opportunity to listen," the mayor said.

Joan Gallegos, of the Emigration Canyon Community Council, said residents there appreciated McAdams’ responses to their bicycle-safety and trash-collection concerns.

"I guess the honeymoon phase continues because he has paid attention to our issues," she said, particularly citing Leary’s appointment. "We now have a voice and better communication and a person we can address our concerns to and hold accountable."

McAdams also has actively promoted economic development across numerous fronts, completing a couple of initiatives begun under Corroon.

The county signed ownership and operating agreements with Salt Lake City for the downtown Utah Performing Arts Center. Another agreement guaranteed the lucrative, twice-yearly Outdoor Retailer markets will continue coming to the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center through 2016.

In addition, the county agreed to participate in a Community Development Area (CDA) around Draper’s FrontRunner station, giving up as much as $36.4 million in new sales-tax revenue from the site over the next 20 years in return for the prospect of developing a complex of high-rise office towers for high-tech companies that could be worth upward of $1 billion.

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