New Taylorsville elected officials learn on the go in 2018
Dec 17, 2018 02:19PM
● By Carl Fauver
The Taylorsville Planning Commission placed a big emphasis on education and training in 2018. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
New faces — and, in one case, a familiar face in a new position — guided Taylorsville city government through the rewards and challenges of 2018.
Along the way, the new city council and mayor witnessed unprecedented determination and professionalism from their city planning commission, pledged support for their oft-maligned police department, and watched the city’s youth council expand its aspirations and commitment to the community.
In short, it was another busy year for those who lead Taylorsville and those who support them in making the community a better place to live.
New mayor and council members govern
After serving on the city council six years, Kristie Overson ran for mayor 14 months ago and defeated one-term incumbent Larry Johnson, 57 to 43 percent. Her election was part of a post-Donald Trump presidential election that saw many women voted into a variety of municipal offices, in Utah and across the country.
“I’m really excited (to be elected),” Overson said on her election night. “I got to hear so many concerns from our residents (during the campaign). I look forward to serving them all as best I can.”
A second Taylorsville female celebrated victory that same night, as Meredith Harker earned 62 percent of the vote in her race to replace eight-year councilwoman Dana Barbour, who chose not to seek a third term.
“I am excited, overwhelmed, relieved and surprised the vote was not closer,” Harker said at the time.
The only Taylorsville incumbent to earn re-election was councilman Dan Armstrong who upended a 19-year-old challenger to win a second term.
“All I can do is wipe the sweat off and be happy about my win,” he said on election night.
Then, just after the holidays, in early 2018, there was yet another election. Because Overson was elected mayor while serving on the council, her District 2 seat had to be filled. On a busy night of voting, Jan. 10, former Taylorsville Planning Commission Chairman Curt Cochran outlasted eight others vying for the post to win the city council seat.
“I feel all of my previous volunteer work in the city has prepared me for this position,” Cochran said. In addition to his years on the planning commission, Cochran also served on the city’s budget and economic development committees.
So, with half of the city’s five council and mayor’s posts filled by new people, Taylorsville leaders hit the ground running in 2018. In addition to the re-elected Dan Armstrong (District 5), two other council members made the transition from 2017 to 2018: Council Chairman Brad Christopherson (District 3) and Ernest Burgess (District 1). They must each now decide whether they will seek re-election this fall.
Planning commission refocuses with new members
Another group that saw nearly a 50 percent turnover in membership this year was the Taylorsville Planning Commission. New to the commission in 2018 are Kent Burggraaf, Marc McElreath and Becky Scholes.
The chairmanship of the planning commission changes each year. Curt Cochran’s 2017 term in that position was expiring at the same time he was elected to the city council. He was replaced by Lynette Wendel, who was elected to the post in her fourth year on the commission.
“I think 2018 was a great year for the planning commission,” Wendel said. “We worked hard to be the best-educated and best-trained commission the city has ever had.”
As a part of their effort to learn more about city planning issues, Wendel and planning commission member Anna Barbieri (the longest-tenured member of the group) attended a University of Utah course on urban planning, taught by Taylorsville Community Development Director (and the city’s planning commission coordinator) Mark McGrath.
Wendel and Barbieri were also the commission’s primary organizers of a joint training session with members of the Herriman Planning Commission.
“I have been doing this 25 years, and this planning commission is the most dedicated and diligent I have ever seen,” McGrath said. “This group is unbelievable.”
City formally endorses Unified Police
Is the service provided by the Unified Police Department worth the amount of money various Salt Lake Valley cities are charged for it?
In 2018, perhaps more than ever before, the answer to that question varied wildly depending on which city council you were asking.
While the often-beleaguered UPD was being left behind by the likes of Herriman and Riverton, the law enforcement agency received a full-throated endorsement from the Taylorsville City Council.
“The so-called ‘thin blue line’ (separating law-abiding residents from lawlessness) is getting thinner,” Council Chairman Christopherson said, as he encouraged his fellow council members to pass a resolution endorsing Unified Police. “I don’t think I really have the words to say how critical I believe this is to our citizens. Law enforcement is an honorable profession.”
As the council passed the endorsement resolution, they also made it clear a property tax increase may be necessary in 2019 to fund anticipated UPD rate increases.
“We are very honored they drafted and passed this resolution,” UPD Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant said. “It clearly displays the council’s support of our agency, which I have always felt since taking this position six years ago.”
As the agency struggles to keep all of its police officer vacancies filled — particularly as several other departments in the valley have boosted their wage and benefit packages — UPD also spent 2018 actively encouraging Taylorsville residents to form neighborhood watch programs.
Youth council expands its focus
The Taylorsville Youth Council — under the direction of advisor Kris Heineman — took on a new look this year, starting with the ambitious effort of their 2017–18 mayor, Bryn Gale.
For the first time ever, the youth council endorsed a city ordinance amendment, as Gale earned city council support for a change to crack down on smoking and vaping in parking lots adjacent to city parks.
“It has been illegal to smoke cigarettes and cigars in Taylorsville parks and other public areas for a long time,” the Murray High School senior said last spring. “But the ordinance did not make vaping illegal, and it also didn’t include smoking other things, such as marijuana. My ordinance amendments dealt with that.”
Then later in the calendar year, after the 2018–19 youth council was selected, that group decided to do away with its traditional Sub-For-Santa participation, in lieu of helping more people.
“In my seven years at (the Taylorsville Golden Living Center), I have never had a group come forward to offer to do as much for our residents (as the youth council),” said center Activities Director Taunia Southworth, after the students agreed to do several activities there over the holidays.
Additionally, last fall several Taylorsville Youth Council members also volunteered time to clean up at the Little Confluence picnic area and trailhead (4800 South along the Jordan River). They are considering making that an annual event for the group as well.
Throughout 2018, changes abounded in Taylorsville government, although those involved say their commitment to the public remains unwavering.