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West Valley City's new mayor takes oath, pledges openness

Published January 7, 2014 8:55 am

West Valley City • City is the second largest in the state and the biggest to elect a new mayor in November.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City • Ron Bigelow pledged Monday to be transparent in his actions as the city's new mayor and to respond to residents' concerns.

"It is critical that I and the other members of the city council be accountable to you the people for the things that happen in our city," Bigelow said after he took the oath of office at City Hall.

He also said: "We are aware that our city is not perfect. We are aware that we have problems and challenges. But we are ready and willing to deal with the problem and face the challenges."

Also sworn in at a Monday ceremony were three West Valley City Council members who were elected in November — incumbents Steve Buhler of District 2 and Steve Vincent of District 4 and newcomer Lars Nordfelt, who won an at-large seat.

Bigelow is taking the helm of Utah's second-largest city, population 133,000, in a controversial time. The West Valley City Police Department has been embroiled in a scandal involving allegations of evidence mishandling in drug and rape cases and the November 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed Danielle Willard by detectives.

The controversy made restoring public trust in the police force a priority in Bigelow's campaign for mayor. His other goals included setting up a long-term financial plan for the municipality and ensuring that ordinances on property upkeep are enforced fairly.

Noting that almost 46 percent of the city's population is ethnic minorities, Bigelow said diversity is one of West Valley's greatest strengths. He praised city staffers, saying that "most of them do their work without making headlines and quietly meet the needs of the citizens." And he applauded Lee Russo, the new police chief.

"He has come into a difficult situation and is making great strides," Bigelow said.

The council members all said they appreciated the opportunity to serve.

Vincent, who is beginning his fourth term, said the council works hard to serve residents and is "always mindful" of how tax dollars are spent. Buhler, now in his second term, said that thanks to a team effort of elected officials, employees and others, the city has become a better place to live, work, raise a family and do business.

Nordfelt said members of West Valley's first council had a vision of what the city would become after its 1980 incorporation, one that unfolded as they hoped it would.

"I hope I can carry on with the tradition they have set," Nordfelt said.

Bigelow was elected with almost 61 percent of the vote to opponent Karen Lang's 39 percent. His predecessor, Mike Winder, opted not to run for a second term, citing the need for a full-time job to support his family. Lang, a West Valley City Council member, is midway through her four-year term and remains on the body.

Under West Valley's form of government, the mayor serves as chairman of the council and is a voting member of that body. Other members of the council are Tom Huyhn of District 1 and Corey Rushton, who holds an at-large seat.