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The City Journals

Former West Jordan Mayor unanimously elected to fill council seat

Jun 05, 2017 02:41PM ● By Tori LaRue

David Newton is sworn in as West Jordan’s newest city council member. (Carl Fauver)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
The West Jordan City Council has turned to a familiar face to help get it past a difficult time in city government. From among 31 applicants for the position, former Mayor David Newton was elected to serve the remaining eight months of a vacant at-large council seat.
Newton replaces Councilman Jeff Haaga, who resigned the position nearly nine months after an apparent drunken encounter with police. Haaga was not arrested for DUI but did pay a $500 fine for leaving the scene of an accident.
“I don’t intend to seek election this fall,” the 68-year-old Newton told council members during a question-and-answer period prior to their April 27 vote. “But I do think there are things I can do before the end of the year to assist. For one thing, the city budget has to be finalized over the next couple of months, and I’m happy to assist with that.”
Of the 31 applicants, 26 turned out for interviews before the council—20 men and six women.
In the first round, each of them was given one minute to answer the same succinct question: “What are your passions?” The applicants all adjourned to an adjacent room and were brought back one at a time so none could hear previous answers to the question.
The applicants responded with passions ranging from family, politics and community service to gardening, making wine and refereeing basketball and football games.
City council members were then allowed a first, second and third choice, with the top three vote getters advancing to the second round. They were N. Craig Dearing, Newton and David Pack.
In the second round, Dearing was eliminated, followed by a 4-2 vote in the final round, between Newton and Pack. Afterward, Newton was formally nominated for the at-large seat and was unanimously approved by the mayor and council.
“I would have voted for David Pack, and I hope he runs for this seat next fall,” Newton said. “But for the next few months, I’m happy to offer my assistance.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Newton served for two years as a West Jordan city councilman. More recently—from 2006 to 2010 he was the city’s mayor. He did not seek re-election.
Newton currently serves as vice chairman of both the Trans-Jordan Landfill board of directors and the Jordan Valley Medical Center board of directors.
“I enjoy serving the community,” said the father of two and grandfather of seven. “I plan to do all I can for a few months and then make room for someone else.”
Newton has a couple of things he would like to assist the city in accomplishing during his time on the council.
“I think we need to look seriously at city business license reforms,” he said. “Right now, technically, it’s illegal to have a garage sale—or for kids to operate a lemonade stand—without a city license. We need to make some changes there. Also, I would like to see West Jordan get a performing art center. We’ve been working on that for 15 years.”
Following Newton’s election, West Jordan council members said they were pleased with his selection and with the entire field of applicants.
“I was blown away by your applications and interview answers,” Councilman Zach Jacob said.
“Councilman Dirk Burton added, “West Jordan is the real winner tonight.”
And Councilman Chris McConnehey added, “This was a very difficult choice. I had seven different candidates I wanted to vote for (in the first round). This has been one of the most impactful nights I have ever had on the city council.”
Many of the applicants may consider an election run this fall. The mayor and three council seats will be on the ballot. At least two of those—the two at-large council seats—are filled by incumbents who do not plan to run: Newton and Chad Nichols.
After the meeting, finalist Pack said he is considering a run for one of the at-large seats but had not yet officially decided.