After some bumps in his first term, Sandy mayor announces he won’t seek reelection

Kurt Bradburn cited a need to focus on his family.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) This April 24, 2018, file photo shows Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn announcing the firing of then-Police Chief Kevin Thacker. Thacker later sued the city for remarks made by the mayor. Bradburn announced on social media and in emails to city staff on Thursday that he will not seek a second term in this year's municipal election.

Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn has faced complaints over his salary, a drinking water crisis, clashes with the City Council, an earthquake and a deadly pandemic during his first three years in office. Now he’s declining to run for another term.

In an email sent Thursday to Sandy employees and City Council members, Bradburn wrote that he enjoyed his time in office and working with city staff. He said that his decision not to seek reelection was “tough,” but that he felt “strongly that I need to focus on my young family.”

“Four years is a lifetime for small children, filled with many milestones, and I would like to dedicate my time to enjoying each one of them,” Bradburn said in the email. “I truly could not have served in this capacity without the support of my children and especially my incredible wife, Marie. Her sacrifice on my behalf these past few years is something I will be forever grateful for.”

Bradburn did not respond to interview requests Thursday. He also posted about his decision to only serve one term on Facebook.

Writing that it’s been “the honor of my professional life to serve the amazing city of Sandy,“ he concluded the post with, “I look forward to accomplishing even more for Sandy during this final year of my term.”

The mayor will leave office with a list of accomplishments as well as some debacles.

Bradburn managed to unseat Tom Dolan, Sandy’s longest-serving mayor, who was seeking a seventh term. But shortly after taking office in 2018, the new mayor was a subject of backlash after giving himself a 10% raise while slashing city jobs. After raising eyebrows, Bradburn not only gave the additional money back, he slashed his salary by $43,000.

“I’m the first to admit I got this one wrong,” he said at the time. “I’m new at this, and it was the wrong way to go.”

Months later, he fired the Sandy police chief, only for the chief to come back and sue the city over some of Bradburn’s remarks on the matter. The city eventually settled with the ex-chief for $100,000.

By 2019, the City Council and mayor’s office suffered from communication breakdowns and dysfunction. Sandy City employees accidentally “overdosed” the drinking water supply with fluoride, but it took over a week before residents found out. Bradburn soon began butting heads with the City Council after his office purged members and their staff from a citywide email list.

“Here I sit, 23 years of being on the City Council, and I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I have ever seen anything like this,” former council member Linda Saville-Martinez said at a meeting in February 2019. “There’s no communication going on. And in the past, we were a whole. Everybody worked together.”

Last year brought several new members to the Sandy City Council, but the clashes continued when Bradburn vetoed their pandemic-minded budget because it didn’t include pay raises for law enforcement and other city workers.

“I will not disagree that we had our moments,” said council member Cyndi Sharkey, who has been on the council since 2020. “It was the first veto ever in the city’s history. That would meet your definition of ‘clashing.’”

Still, Sharkey said that Bradburn’s decision to not seek reelection came as a surprise.

“I still don’t know if I can put words together,” she said. “I certainly appreciate the fact that Mayor Bradburn announced it now. ... I think it opens up the candidate field and I think it will make for a pretty exciting election season.”

Council member Monica Zoltanski, however, said she was concerned over Bradburn’s announcement.

“It’s a bombshell,” she said. “I hope this isn’t foreshadowing that mayors get burned out after one term. ... I’m disappointed to see the demands of the job precluded him from balancing family needs.”

Zoltanski, who took office in 2020, said that despite past disputes, the City Council and mayor “have gone a long way to smooth out the rough edges.” She also highlighted many of Bradburn’s achievements.

After the drinking water debacle, for example, the mayor created a robust communication system for the city, Zoltanski said. His administration built the CityServe app so residents can report issues like potholes and delayed trash pickup. The city upped is outreach efforts on social media and created an email and text messaging system to reach residents during emergencies.

“All those tools help the city adapt very well to the new demands of working in the pandemic era. We didn’t really have to skip a beat,” Zoltanski said. “People already had the tools to work remotely and residents were already engaging with the city electronically in ways they hadn’t before.”

The council member also praised Bradburn’s commitment to sustainability, as his administration added electric charging stations to the city and invested in cleaner technologies.

“He can point to a lot of accomplishments,” Zoltanski said. “And he’s still our mayor for another year, so I expect there will be more.”

She added that she “would have loved” to see Bradburn run for a second term.

“He has not been a perfect leader and he’s made choices I don’t agree with, but we’re losing someone very talented,” Zoltanski said. “One thing I know is Kurt Bradburn cares about his city.”