Getting to Know Mayor Cullimore
Apr 07, 2016 11:15AM
● By Bryan Scott
By Cassandra Goff | [email protected]cityjournals.com
Cottonwood - Holladay - Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore of Cottonwood Heights is an easily recognizable title, if you live within the city. President, CEO and Chairman Cullimore is an easily recognizable title, if you work with Dynatronics. Husband, father or grandfather may not come to mind when you see the name Kelvyn H. Cullimore Jr.; however, Cullimore takes on all of these titles, every day.
Cullimore has been the only mayor of Cottonwood Heights since the city’s incorporation in 2005. Two years prior to his 2004 election, he was a member of the committee to incorporate the city into Salt Lake County. Recalling the incorporation, Cullimore said it was “very satisfying to see democracy in progress. It shows what regular citizens can accomplish when provided the opportunity. Our community was committed to cityhood and supported the effort from the very beginning.” He was elected for a second term as mayor beginning in January of 2010 and again for a third term in January 2014.
Cullimore graduated from BYU in 1980 with a degree in financial and estate planning, after which he settled in Cottonwood Heights and never left.
He decided to run for mayor in 2004 because he was able to “gain a vision of what could be accomplished and had a real desire to share that vision and employ what I had learned to help the city be successful. I felt like I was in a unique position to service as I had the flexibility with my employment and experience that would inform my effort. Besides, I was a scoutmaster at the time with no end in sight. So it was either another year of snow caving or run for mayor.”
Cullimore continues to serve the city because he feels “there is still more to be done to help move the city forward.” There tends to be a learning curve for new mayors, so “the more I learned, the more effective I could be.” It is a “benefit to the city to have a knowledgeable mayor,” he said.
As mayor, his role in the community is to “make the best use of limited resources and place less financial demand on citizens.” He likes to “see what is possible with beneficial ideas in a vision for the city.” He is the face of the community. “But really, I’m the head cheerleader,” he said.
“When you hold for public service you invite criticism,” he said. “You have be thick-skinned and realize that disagreements do not equal enemies.” It’s challenging dealing with false accusations that aim to discredit character, Cullimore said. He is able to handle these accusations by being “secure in the knowledge that those things are not true facts.” The majority of people appreciate what you do, he said.
When dealing with such misconceptions, he has realized that the “more defensive you are, the guiltier you sometimes look. If involving a factual error, it is easy to fix. If it is a perception issue, it is difficult to change without outperformance.” He has found that people “don’t want to hear excuses” and “don’t want to be corrected,” which allows him to practice his listening skills frequently.
There are lots of sacrifices involved with being mayor, Cullimore said. However, he finds benefit in relationships and associates and in being able to touch lives.
One day, Cullimore was asked by Sandy City Mayor Tom Dolan if he knew what the great lie was yet. “No?” he replied. “There is no such thing as a part-time mayor,” Dolan said. The residents of Cottonwood Heights do not view Cullimore any differently than the Sandy residents view Dolan.
Cullimore allows his personal cell phone number to be posted on the city webpage and regularly gives the number to residents. He has witnessed the impact on residents of being able to talk directly to the mayor. He strives to be an available public servant — if the public can’t get ahold of him, “what good is he?” Residents have not abused his personal number so he has no issue with leaving it available.
When he reflected on his last 10 years at Cottonwood Heights, he remembered “all the wonderful people I have had the privilege to meet and become acquainted with, who shared in the vision and desire to make Cottonwood Heights a great place to live.” He has enjoyed watching the city “start from scratch and grow as a source of pride for everyone involved.” “Most people are proud of Cottonwood Heights; they find a sense of place,” he said.
Cullimore said there is no accomplishment he can personally take credit for. “The city is a community effort. I can lead and provide vision but there is no movement until council and residents engage. Accomplishments are a team effort.”
He is proud of resident efforts, specifically in the formation of the Canyons School District, which he claims was critical for the new city. “Prior to the split from Jordan School District, there were two closed elementary schools and one middle school.” The district had also made a statement saying they were closing more schools. “Cottonwood Heights was in trouble. There were dilapidated schools and the community was falling into disrepair.”
After Canyons School District was created, the city became home to new middle and elementary schools. Cullimore experienced a “new life in Cottonwood Heights, without an increase in taxes, and the west experienced no harm from the split.” The “relationship with Canyons School District for the city is significant,” he said.
Cottonwood Heights has a sense of place and community unity. The mayor is proud of the many events Cottonwood Heights hosts, including Butlerville Days. He is also very proud of the awards the city has acquired, and he values the partnerships the city has, specifically with the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center.
From outside of the city, he hopes that people see Cottonwood Heights as a desirable place to live. We have a “progressive community where socioeconomics is the perception, which may not always be the truth,” he said. Residents living or working within the city seem to be proud to be from Cottonwood Heights. They are good listeners and have easy access to government officials.
If he could change things within the city, he would make the decision to change the snowplowing. “The company proved to not exercise the way they had hoped. While they have improved and shown an adequate job this year, it may have been better to continue with the financial burden of staying with the county.”
He sees the future of Cottonwood Heights “continuing to be a sustainable community of envy with high service and reasonable costs.” It will continue to be a great place to live.
Cullimore said it’s been an “honor and a privilege” to be the only mayor of Cottonwood Heights. He finds satisfaction in “creating everything new.” He still wishes to work on improving safety and reducing crime, as well as upgrading the rec center. He as a whole laundry list of things he wants to accomplish for the city.
Having served many years in office, he is easy to identify. When he ventures into a restaurant, or even to the car wash, he frequently hears whispers sounding eerily like, “Isn’t that the mayor?”
As chair, president and CEO of Dynatronics Corporation, Cullimore is in charge of the physical therapy device manufacturer founded by his father in 1979.
Cullimore said his leadership style is collaborative and he admittedly tends to be a micromanager. He “expects people to do what they say.” He does not expect anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. He has a personalized leadership style, consisting of engagement and being very responsive.
There are similarities between leadership and principles within government and business, he said, but otherwise they tend to be very different. As CEO, he is at the top of the hierarchy. “I can say we are going in this direction, and the company follows. However, I can’t make any decision alone in government.” Two other votes are needed from the council for any movement. In government, “things tend to not move fast.” It is “inclusive and transparent by design.”
How can he possibly do it all? “My wife makes sure I stay balanced,” Cullimore said. He considers himself lucky to have a wife who is independent and busy. She makes sure family things are not ignored. As long as he “does what she says,” he is able to maintain a balanced life.
Cullimore has nine grandkids, which he says is a “source of pride and joy.” When he is home, he spends time with his family while having dinner and watching movies. Last year, he took two vacations with his family for some quality time together.
With any free or family time he acquires, he has to “plan those things, maybe a year in advance.” Occasionally, he will stumble across free time and in those rare occasions, he tries to get caught up on work. Sometimes, he will sneak in a TV show or watch the news. He also enjoys gardening and watching movies. “Beat the mayor” is a popular call at the Thanksgiving 5K every year, so Cullimore tries to exercise regularly, making sure that beating the mayor does not become too easy.
He describes his job as being CEO, chair and president of Dynatroincs while his hobby is “politics and community service.” Dynatronics is a growing rapidly and is demanding more of his time, so he is uncertain if he will be running for mayor again next term. He will “decide within the next year, but employment has to be the priority.”