Local elected officials join hundreds of their counterparts at the Utah League of Cities and Towns conferenceMay 30, 2022 05:58PM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
What do you figure is more exciting: having movie star Colin Farrell play you in a Ron Howard film… or addressing a convention room filled with Utah mayors and city council members?
Due for release this fall, “13 Lives” will tell the story of the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach, who became stranded in a long, deep cave in Thailand – unable to escape because of quick-rising floodwaters. Cave diver John Volanthen was among the divers who rescued the group. And, he was the keynote speaker earlier this spring at the Utah League of Cities and Towns 2022 Midyear Conference in St. George.
“You could have heard a pin drop throughout (John Volanthen’s) entire talk; the audience was so interested,” Taylorsville City Councilman Bob Knudsen said. “That rescue could have been such a tragedy. Everything had to be done right. There were so many different opinions about what should be done. That’s what I got from his presentation: elected officials will hear lots of different opinions. They have to be willing to listen and then to work together.”
Just elected last fall – to replace 8-year Taylorsville City Council District 5 representative Dan Armstrong – Knudsen was attending his first Utah League of Cities and Towns conference.
“The organizers announced this was the best-attended conference they have ever hosted; I’m guessing 300 to 400 people,” Knudsen added. “It was a great chance to get together with other city leaders to learn about the many common issues we all face – like population growth and water challenges. I also particularly enjoyed the session they held specifically for new city leaders.”
The League designated a “Newly Elected Officials Networking Breakfast,” but it was open to all of those attending the conference. Ernest Burgess has served as the Taylorsville City Council District 1 representative for more than a decade. But he wasn’t about to miss it.
“I wanted to attend the rookie breakfast because it’s a good refresher – a reminder of the basics, of what [city council members] should be doing,” Burgess said. “There is so much good information at those conferences. They go over housing stats, water and electricity concerns, lots of important issues. If I am going to drive all the way down to St. George, I want to get as much out of it as I can.”
And what did Burgess get most from Volanthen’s keynote address?
“No matter how big the challenge is, you can’t let it overwhelm you,” he said. “It was a miracle they got those children out (of the flooding cave) alive. The leaders had to stay calm and problem-solve. If you don’t, you will fail – which in that case, was life-and-death.”
In addition to Knudsen and Burgess, Taylorsville City Council Chair Anna Barbieri and Mayor Kristie Overson also attended the conference.
“I haven’t been to one of their conferences since before COVID and I really enjoyed it,” Overson said. “The schedule had many good events. But at least as important as the speakers was the networking opportunity we had. I enjoyed my break-out session with other mayors so we could have peer-to-peer discussions.”
Overson says many Utah mayors are facing the same challenges.
“Water and housing growth were two of the primary concerns,” she said. “Rising costs, inflation in general, is also a big issue. We all have to figure out how we can pay for city vehicles and other things.”
On its website (ulct.org), the Utah League of Cities and Towns reports there are 1,385 mayors and city council members across our state, representing 249 cities and towns. Of those 249, some 43% (106) have a population of fewer than 1,000 residents.According to utah-demographics.com, Taylorsville is our state’s 13th largest city, with about 60,000 residents