Seven candidates for Mayor of West Valley City are now running campaigns. That long list may be a good sign the city is set to put an equa lly long list of struggles behind it. From where I’m standing near the new Fairbourne TRAX station in West Valley City, on the water stairs in the park next to the TRAX station, facing east I see the newly restored Valley Fair Mall bustling with shoppers, right in front of me the City Offices and the beautiful new Embassy Suites Hotel is to my left just beyond the TRAX line. But any visitor to the city today would be surprised to learn that it’s a community coming apart at the seams. More than a hundred drug cases have been thrown out by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. Just last week, Gill determined that determined that West Valley detectives Kevin Salmon and Shaun Cowley acted unlawfully when they shot and killed twenty-one year-old Danielle Willard during a routine drug stop. Willard’s family is suing the department and troubles in Utah’s second largest city seem to grow almost daily.
“Well the city council’s going to take the first step right away, which is you have to hire a new police chief.”
Former State Budget Director Ron Bigelow is among the candidates vying for mayor. He says whether he wins the mayor’s seat or not, a new police chief must work together with the council to bring the city out of a crisis of confidence.
“And he’s got to be given some clear direction from the legislative body, the city council as to what his role is,” says Bigelow.
Jeff Mackey labels himself as the working man’s candidate for mayor. He says the house cleaning in the city’s head office should be expanded.
“So now we have the only problem left is the city manager that comes on TV and says don’t worry about it, we can fix this, this is not a problem. It is a problem and it’s a major problem and it’s also a national embarrassment to this city," Mackey says. "To say the least we have a dead girl. We have a girl that’s been killed and we don’t know what happened,” says Mackey.
Tim Chambliss with the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics calls the crisis in the city offices a dangerous opportunity.
“My hope is that this can be turned around. One way that we can turn it around is by voter awareness and also voter concern even voter anger," says Chambliss.
Former West Valley City Council Chair Margaret Peterson says her personal struggle and professional success make her the best person to come in and help pull the city out of a slump.
“I’ve been down in the pits. I’ve been as down as low as many human beings ever get in their life," says Peterson. She asks, "Why am I sticking my neck out to do this incredibly challenging task?”
Peterson says one person can’t solve all of these problems but she is the only candidate who was a founding city council chair. She says she can bring the people together to do it again.
Jeff Mackey says at some point city government just lost its way.
“West Valley has always had all the components of a good city. There’s been several times it’s stumbled and it’s fallen and it’s [got] back up, you know. And it will again,” says Mackey.
The Hinckley Institute’s Tim Chambliss says he’s continually impressed by the people who come forward to improve their community and is optimistic voters will do the same.
“If they have doubts about their police department then they may have doubts about their government. And that’s why the person who runs and is elected is someone who is going to need to put forth a vision, a plan and to inspire them to believe in the future of West Valley City.”
West Valley City election information is at the city recorder’s office and on-line on that page as well. You can also find your voter registration status on the Salt Lake County Clerk’s election page.