In the only contested Salt Lake City Council race that won’t be decided by ranked choice voting, residents of District 7 will choose between two candidates to determine who will lead the area that includes the east side’s Sugar House for the remaining two years of former council member Amy Fowler’s term.
Following Fowler’s resignation in July, the City Council appointed Sarah Young to fill the vacancy through the end of the year. The winner of this year’s election will serve through 2025.
Molly Jones is a small-business owner who is no stranger to competing for the District 7 seat. Over the summer, she applied to fill the vacancy left by Fowler. She holds a degree in political science and previously served as senior director of public policy in the Berkeley, California, mayor’s office.
Jones said she threw her name into the race because she cares about the fate of District 7 and Sugar House at large. She’s known for a long time that she wanted to serve on the City Council and said she would tap into her educational and professional background to deliver for the district.
“I’ve taken all these experiences and all of these pieces of learning and training,” she said, “and I’m ready to put them to good use and work hard for District 7.”
Jones said her district hasn’t been attended to well in recent years and she wants to ensure it gets “back on track.”
She wants to get in tune with what has been planned for the district, what the timeline is for wrapping up various projects, follow up on the status of capital improvement projects and check in with residents to see if they think the council is on the right path.
“I just don’t think that we’ve had a good voice for this district,” she said, “and I’m ready to fight hard.”
Jones said the district faces an uphill battle in its core commercial business district. With 2100 South and Highland Drive under construction at the same time, businesses within the district are feeling the strain because would-be customers find them inaccessible.
“I want to reach out to all of the requisite departments,” she said, “want to see if there’s some way that we can adjust schedules so that we can cut down on having our two main thoroughfares blocked simultaneously, and see if we can’t schedule those a little bit more appropriately so that people can at least get through the city wherever they need to go.”
Jones said Young’s resume is acutely focused on education — something the council doesn’t deal with. On the other hand, Jones said has more diverse experience as a teacher, a policy director, a project manager, serving on a community council, and owning a small business.
“When I compare those two resumes,” she said, “for me, breadth of knowledge and skill trumps depth of single-topic knowledge.”
Sarah Young is the chief of staff at the Utah State Board of Education. She entered the race as an incumbent, having been appointed to the District 7 seat in July.
Young said neighborhood safety is what inspired her to run to retain her seat.
“I was really prompted to get involved in the city work when I knew in my local school district, Salt Lake City, that they were looking and closing schools,” she said. “And when you close schools, kids are traveling further.”
It’s the city’s responsibility, she said, to oversee those crosswalks and ensure kids have a safe route to class.
While safety of students is one of her main issues, she said, she wants to make sure bicyclists and other pedestrians remain safe, too.
If elected to serve the remainder of the term, she wants to ensure parks and open spaces are safer. Young said she is already at work trying to get more police cameras and lighting in Fairmont Park, and that she also wants to see more opportunities for homeless Utahns to access services.
While the ongoing construction in Sugar House is necessary to address the explosion of growth in the area, it’s important for the city to work with the community to talk about how that work affects businesses, Young said.
“It’s definitely something where we don’t want to see any of our local businesses go under due to this increased traffic,” she said.
The incumbent council member said construction in the area will be paused through January to balance the need to support growth with the need to support economic development.
Young has 20 years of experience in K-12 education, including the past 11 years at the Utah State Board of Education. That work, she said, has given her more than a decade of experience in Utah’s political landscape.
“That includes understanding roles and responsibilities of which entity is over which issue and topic,” she said, “but also having relationships with a lot of our state legislators, a lot of our local officials, in terms of being able to bring those partnerships to create more comprehensive solutions for our area.”