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5 ways Utah’s local government will shift away from tradition in 2018



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SALT LAKE CITY — The times, they are a changin’.

A slew of local city officials from all walks of life were voted into office during the 2017 election cycle and will be inaugurated come January. Utah’s newly elected include everyone from a U.S. Air Force logistics manager to a funeral planner.

But the state will also witness some historic changes in the coming year as local government demographics shift away from tradition, according to Susan Wood, director of communications and training for the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

“I think it speaks well of the progress our society is seeing,” she said.

Here are five big changes to local government that Utahns can expect in 2018:

  1. 1. 5 Utah cities to inaugurate first female mayors:Provo elected Michelle Kaufusi as its first female mayor in the city’s 157-year history after the Provo School Board member edged out opponent Sherrie Hall Everett. Dawn Ramsey beat her opponent Mark Woolley in South Jordan, and Julie Fullmer received nearly twice the amount of votes of her two opponents in Vineyard’s elections. Michelle Tait took the mayoral seat in Harrisville, and Hildale elected Donia Jessop.
  2. 2. Hildale elects first mayor who’s not part of polygamous sect:Jessop is also Hildale’s first mayor who isn’t a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a polygamist sect in southern Utah. Jessop, who left the sect several years ago, will take over the mayor’s office with three others who are also not members. The election signals major changes in the community.
  3. 3. Riverton elects first female-majority City Council in state history: Tawnee McCay replaced Paul Wayman as Riverton’s District 3 City Council representative and Tish Buroker bested Darren Park to win the second city council seat up for election. McCay and Buroker will join Tricia Tingey to create the first female-majority City Council in Utah’s history. Joining the women are Brent Johnson and Sheldon Stewart.
  4. 4. West Jordan transitioning to a strong-mayor form of government: West Jordan voted to change to a strong-mayor form of government with a seven-member council. The city’s mayor-elect, Jim Riding, will be the West Jordan’s 13th — and final — mayor under the current council-manager form of government. The new form of government will take effect in January 2020 and give the West Jordan mayor more political power. Strong-mayor cities are typically those that pay their mayor to work full-time, though that isn’t always the case. Utah is home to only 10 strong-mayor cities, including Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, South Salt Lake, Murray, Logan, Sandy, Taylorsville, Marriott-Slaterville and, now, West Jordan.
  5. 5. Salt Lake City elects more LGBTQ City Council members than ever before: The Utah capital voted in two LGBTQ candidates to join the city council. Chris Wharton and Amy Fowler will join openly gay member Derek Kitchen on the Salt Lake City Council, as well as the city’s first openly gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski. Biskupski called the milestone “exciting” in a phone interview with the Huffington Post.
Despite their differences, however, most incoming officials express a strong interest in preparing for growth and planning for the future with infrastructure, commercial development and housing, according to a survey by the Utah League of Cities and Towns. Many also hope to improve communication in their community and encourage more neighborhood participation.

“I have lived in the city for over 35 years and thought it was time I gave back,” said incoming Fountain Green Mayor Willard Wood.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show Brent Johnson remains on the Riverton City Council as his seat was not up for re-election.

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