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Taylorsville Journal

Taylorsville mayor sharing advice with her newly elected counterpart in West Jordan

Feb 26, 2020 02:04PM ● By Carl Fauver

New West Jordan Mayor Dirk Burton is overseeing a change in his city’s form of government this year and has been consulting with several of his counterparts, including Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson, to gain some insight. (Courtesy Taylorsville City)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Over the past couple of months, you have read stories in these pages about the consistency and stability of Taylorsville government.  All three of the city council members on the ballot last fall — Ernest Burgess, Brad Christopherson and Curt Cochran — won reelection in landslides.

You’ve also read how pleased Taylorsville residents are with the work their council and mayor are doing. A recent third-party survey put the elected officials’ approval rating at a nearly unheard of 87%.

The same cannot be said for the status of elected officials — or the popularity of the work they are doing — in the community bordering Taylorsville to the south: West Jordan.

Notorious for rarely ever reelecting their mayors, West Jordan voters again chose someone new for that position last fall, when then-City Councilman Dirk Burton won a very close election over incumbent Jim Riding, by 589 votes. Voters also elected three new city council members.

Two years earlier, in another very close vote, West Jordan residents decided to change to a council-mayor form of government, commonly referred to as a “strong mayor” form of government. 

In a news release provided by West Jordan City officials, Burton said he supported the change in the form of government two years ago and is excited to be the first mayor under that form.

“As a council member for four years, I’ve long recognized that residents are the city’s customer,” Burton said. “That’s why one of the key campaign promises I made was to make our city more responsive to residents. I promise I can manage city government on a day-to-day basis.”

As he begins work to fulfill that promise, Burton has also been spending some time during his first several weeks on the job soliciting advice from other mayors across the state, including Kristie Overson of Taylorsville, who has been at the helm of a strong mayor form of government for two years — and a city council member for six years before that.

“Very soon after the election, West Jordan City invited me to speak at a work session for the new mayor and council members,” she said. “I spoke for about 15 minutes about how our [Taylorsville strong mayor] government works. Then, after the Holidays, Mayor Burton came to my office to discuss it a bit more.”

“Her biggest advice to me was to always listen to the citizens and put them first,” Burton said of his one-on-one session with Overson. “I have also seen Mayor Overson at several meetings hosted by the Western Growth Coalition, ChamberWest and the Utah League of Cities and Towns. She’s a very active mayor, and the one-on-one meeting was very helpful.”

According to the most recent U.S. Census information, West Jordan has nearly twice as many residents as Taylorsville (116,046 vs. 60,192) and three times the land mass (30.9 square miles vs. 10.7). The number of residents per square mile in West Jordan is 3,432, while population density in Taylorsville is more than 50% higher than that, at 5,570.

“We talked about several issues our two cities share, including our affordable housing shortages,” Burton said. “I know Taylorsville is pretty much completely built out. But we do still have some room in West Jordan, and we are evaluating a number of proposed projects.”

West Jordan’s change in its form of government is not without its cost to city taxpayers. For starters, Riding will continue to receive his $89,500 annual salary for the next two years. Additionally, city leaders set the new mayoral salary at $105,000 per year.

As he continues to “learn the ropes,” Burton said Overson was not the only Utah mayor he planned to speak with. Burton already has, or is going to, speak with mayors of Salt Lake City, Sandy, Murray, St. George and Salt Lake County.

“I told him it is very important to establish good relationships with his city council members,” Overson said. “And it’s also important to work with elected officials in other cities on common issues. Sometimes, we can just focus on our own little world, without doing that. But that doesn’t serve our citizens in the best way.”

“We also talked about how to work effectively with department heads,” Burton said. “My meeting with Mayor Overson was very casual but also very much worth my time.” 

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