A longtime activist and former vice chair of the Utah Democratic Party has become the third candidate to announce her candidacy for the at-large County Council seat vacated Tuesday by newly inaugurated Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
Josie Valdez told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that her decision to run came after the death last week of civil rights legend Robert “Archie” Archuleta, whom she called the “patriarch of our Latino community.”
“I began to think that he was the voice of the underserved — he was the voice of not only the Latino community but other underserved, underrepresented groups — and that we needed someone on the council who spoke for the people to ensure that programs, services, dollars were focused on people from the entire community,” she said.
Valdez, a former candidate for lieutenant governor and state Senate, said she has a unique perspective as a Latina, as well as extensive experience in the political arena. She has served as the assistant director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and as a cabinet member in former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s administration.
She said she wants to look at “the same things everybody wants to focus on," like clean air, open space, economic development and transportation, but said she has other priorities that set her apart, like suicide prevention.
“My husband and I have a son who committed suicide,” she said. “It was a tremendously difficult process to live through. And we have such a high rate of suicide that I want to make sure we have dollars focusing on programs that can address that crisis.”
Valdez, who lives in Murray, also wants to take a look at where county dollars and programs serve people in the county to ensure everyone has equal access to resources.
“There’s a perception that the east side gets a lot of attention and a lot of money,” she said. “I want to ensure that all the citizens of our county are well served.”
Per state law, the Salt Lake County Democratic Party’s Central Committee will now go through the same process to fill the at-large seat as it did to appoint a new mayor. The council sent formal notification of the vacancy Tuesday after Wilson’s inauguration, which triggered a 30-day timeline for the party to make a nomination. The election is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 23.
Pamela Berry, who previously ran for County Council District 5, announced her candidacy in a Facebook post on Monday and former District 2 Congressional candidate Shireen Ghorbani told The Salt Lake Tribune of her plans to run on Wednesday.