Election 2021 highlights: West Valley City and Sandy elect their first female mayors

New mayors abound in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Voters place their ballots into a ballot drop box in the parking lot of Sandy City Hall on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2021.

Utah’s voters have now spoken, and many did so while trying out a new voting method.

Ballots are still being counted in city races across the state, and the final tallies are not due until Nov. 16, but there’s still plenty we can glean from the early results.

Here’s what we know at this stage.

• West Valley City has a new mayor and for the first time in the city’s 41-year history, it will be a woman. Across the Salt Lake Valley, Sandy elected its first female mayor, too.

In West Valley City, council member Karen Lang won a race against her council colleague Steve Buhler.

Lang will take over for outgoing Mayor Ron Bigelow. She operates Oakbridge Greenhouse, the family business, and says her goal is for Utah’s second most-populous city to keep its “small-town feel” while providing more access to transit and select development.

Karen Lang, current West Valley City Council member, will become the first female mayor of Utah's second most-populous city.

In Sandy, voters sifted through a crowded field of eight mayoral hopefuls and ultimately picked City Council member Monica Zoltanski to lead the municipality.

Late Thursday, her top challenger, businessman Jim Bennett, conceded in the tight contest, which grew even closer Friday as Zoltanski’s lead shriveled to 36 votes.

“It was an endurance race,” said Zoltanski in claiming victory. She noted that all her opponents have a “strong interest in making our city better in different ways.” Such civic devotion, she added, shows Sandy has a “very bright future.”

(Courtesy photo) Sandy Mayor-elect Monica Zoltanski.

• Lang and Zoltanski will hardly be the only new mayors in Salt Lake County. Alta, Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Herriman and Murray all elected new chief executives.

In each race, the incumbent either decided not to seek reelection or, in Alta’s case, withdrew in the middle of the contest.

While in Midvale, Mayor Robert Hale fell further behind challenger Marcus Stevenson, who held a 193-vote advantage Friday.

Besides West Valley City’s Lang and Sandy’s Zoltanski, the other new mayors are:

Alta — Roger Bourke.

Bluffdale — Natalie Hall.

Cottonwood Heights — Mike Weichers.

Herriman — Lorin Palmer.

Murray — Brett A. Hales.

• The easiest path to victory is to have no opponents. The mayors in Brighton, Draper, Holladay, Riverton and Taylorsville all were unopposed and will now serve another term.

• Salt Lake City’s west side got two new leaders. Alejandro Puy, an immigrant from Argentina who runs a political consulting firm, won a District 2 council seat, while Victoria Petro-Eschler won in District 1, which is an open seat after council member James Rogers decided not to seek reelection and resigned.

(Courtesy photo) Victoria Petro-Eschler will represent District 1 on the Salt Lake City Council.

• The ranked choice voting experiment didn’t appear to run into any immediate problems. Twenty-three Utah cities and towns took part in this pilot project, which eliminated primary elections and instead had voters rank their favorite choices.

If a candidate got above 50% right out of the gate, that person was declared the winner (unless later ballot counts somehow changed that outcome). If not, the candidate with the fewest votes was eliminated and those votes redistributed to people’s second choices. These rounds would continue until someone got a majority.

Elsewhere in Utah, Park City appears to be getting a new mayor, as Councilwoman Nann Worel led incumbent Mayor Andy Beerman 61% to 38% as of Thursday. During the race, Beerman was attacked for the painting of racial justice murals on Main Street, while Worel ran on more inclusive leadership.

• Davis County voters were projected to elect perhaps a dozen new mayors, with 10 municipal leaders not running for reelection. Bountiful’s incumbent mayor was losing by a 2-to-1 margin, while Clinton’s mayor was down by 60 votes.

• The mayoral race in Cedar City has been a nail-biter since Election Day, and a recent count of mail-in votes showed retired businessman Garth Orwin Green topping two-term Mayor Maile Wilson Edwards by 119 votes.

• Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi received more than 75% of the vote in her reelection bid over opponent Ken Dudley, a man who made headlines last year after he was shot while driving through a crowd of protesters.

• In Heber City, where the mayoral matchup was shaped by how to manage the rapid growth of a municipality with rural roots, City Councilwoman Heidi Franco appeared to have defeated incumbent Mayor Kelleen Potter.

• Five rounds of ranked choice voting in Moab led to the election of Joette Langianese as the city’s new mayor. The mayor-elect didn’t know she’d won until Wednesday morning, when she returned from an overnight trip in the La Sal Mountains.

• Kane County voters shot down a ballot initiative, Proposition 10, which would have paved the way for a shuttle from Kanab City to Zion National Park.

— Tribune reporter Kolbie Peterson contributed to this story.