West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder won't seek re-election
West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder announced Wednesday that he will not run for a second term, citing the need for a full-time job so he can support his family not recent scandals as driving his decision.
"Public service is always a sacrifice for a family, and in our city's council-manager form of government, it is especially difficult to serve as mayor," Winder said. "Although the pay is part-time, the duties of the job of mayor have daily demands that make other employment very difficult."
He insisted that troubles at the West Valley City Police Department and his use of a fake identity to write positive articles in local media outlets were not factors in his decision.
"Our initial voter canvassing showed that we were in a very good position to win this race had I decided to run," Winder said. "The decision had nothing to do with these controversies and everything to do with family and quality of life."
Winder, who makes $35,000 plus benefits as mayor, plans to look for a full-time job after his four-year term ends in January. He and his wife, Karyn, have four children between the ages of 5 and 14.
"There is much work to still do this year, including hiring and working with a new police chief, and there has been so much progress over the past four years that our city can be proud of," Winder said.
Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen, who was recovering from surgery, announced his retirement in March, and West Valley City is conducting a nationwide search for his replacement.
Winder, who has been doing freelance consulting, said marketing, public relations and economic development are possibilities in the job hunt. He is not ruling out running for political office again in the future.
His job as mayor of the state's second-largest city is officially part-time. Mayor Melissa Johnson of West Jordan, the state's fourth-largest city, also is part-time and makes $18,000 annually.
But other bigger cities in Utah have full-time mayors with full-time paychecks plus benefits. Among them are Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, who each makes approximately $119,000 a year in salary, and Provo Mayor John Curtis, who pulls down about $88,000.
Winder lists as achievements the turnaround of Valley Fair Mall, the launching of the half-billion dollar Fairbourne Station development, the creation of more than 4,000 jobs at new or expanding businesses, an 11 percent drop in crime, an ongoing effort to make the animal shelter a no-kill facility and an ordinance to prevent discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Winder, 37, was West Valley's business development director from 2000 to 2004, then served one term as city councilman. He was elected mayor in 2009 with 76 percent of the vote.
He has been an enthusiastic booster of his hometown and worked to promote a positive image of West Valley, something his critics say he took too far.
In November 2011, Winder, then director of public affairs for the public relations firm The Summit Group, revealed that he had used the name Richard Burwash to submit articles published in the Deseret News, KSL.com and the community newspaper Oquirrh Times. The stories focused on West Valley City's successes, and a few contained quotes attributed to Mayor Mike Winder.
Many viewed the incident as a reflection on Winder's integrity and judgment, and he soon resigned from The Summit Group. He ran for Salt Lake County mayor last year but lost in the Republican primary, a defeat some believe was caused by his use of the pseudonym.
The recent dismissal by prosecutors of dozens of drug cases based on alleged mishandling of evidence by the police department's Neighbor Narcotics Unit as well as the fatal officer-involved shooting of Danielle Willard and the handling of the unsolved 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell also has brought criticism of Winder.
Some critics say the scandals show that West Valley lacks strong leadership. Winder has pointed out that the council can make recommendations, but the city manager has the authority over city employees.
Margaret K. Peterson, a former West Valley City Council member, announced her candidacy for the four-year mayoral term earlier this month. On Wednesday, she thanked the mayor for his years of dedication to the city.
"I wish him the best on his future endeavors," she said.
West Valley City Councilman Don Christensen, state Rep. Craig Hall and Ross Romero, a former state senator, all expressed their gratitude to the mayor in tweets.
"Mayor Mike Winder has served and continues to serve West Valley City to the best of his ability," Christensen said. "Thanks for his excellent work."
Winder plans to stay involved in city activities.
"I look forward to many more years of continued community service in various capacities," he said.