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The City Journals

Barbour looks ahead to new challenges as she retires from public service

Mar 12, 2018 05:16PM ● By Carl Fauver

Dama Barbour says the opening of a new fire station was one of her highlights while in office. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

Eight-year Taylorsville City Councilwoman Dama Barbour said she’s leaving her elected position at the right time and believes city leadership will continue as strong as ever.

“I feel good; the city remains in good hands,” District 4 Councilwoman Barbour said. “This (Nov. 7) election was very important to me. I knew it was time to retire, but I didn’t want the council to lose its female perspective. So I’m glad my replacement is a woman (Meredith Harker), and I’m also happy to see Kristie (Overson) shift from the council to the mayor’s position.”

Barbour, 78, said it’s time to do a few more things with her husband of 61 years, Jake, and with her five children, 17 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

“Very few days go by that I don’t communicate with most or all of my kids, by phone or text,” Barbour said. “There are also grandkids and great-grandkids visiting all the time. But now I’ll be able to give them a little more attention. I’m looking forward to it.”

Barbour joined the Taylorsville City Council in 2010 with a couple of firm goals.

“I wanted to strengthen our public safety and to see more economic growth in Taylorsville,” she said. “In both those areas, I think we have done well.”

When Barbour took office eight years ago, Taylorsville City had an independent, stand-alone police department. Fire suppression was contracted through the Unified Fire Authority then, but the city was not a member of the fire district at that time.

“Our police department needed more manpower and better equipment when I first took office,” Barbour said. “I could see both sides of the argument — and the council vote was close (3-2) — but I believe we made the right choice in becoming a part of Unified Police. We now have improved equipment and more officers to cover overtime and other needs.”

Barbour was on the winning side in that vote but not on another council decision to join the Unified Fire Authority.

“There again, I could see both sides of the issue,” she said. “I thought we would be better off continuing to contract for fire protection. But Unified Fire did promise to replace our old, aging fire station if we joined, and they have done that. So joining the fire district has worked out well, even though that wasn’t my first choice.”

Unified Fire officials hosted the grand opening for their new station (4965 S. Redwood Road) last spring and said it is one of their largest and best equipped. At more than 22,600 square feet it is about seven times larger than the station it replaced.

As for Taylorsville economic development, Barbour said much of the city’s focus was on the west side of Redwood Road, on both sides of 5400 South.

“We created RDAs (Redevelopment Agencies) in those areas to create tax incentives for new businesses to move in,” Barbour said.  “That helped lead to all the new restaurants in the area, the Regal theater and other businesses.”

City Manager John Taylor said Councilwoman Barbour’s work on economic development was critical.

“We relied on her years of professional experience with economic development,” Taylor said. “She was an extremely positive influence.”

Barbour’s expertise in commercial land development came through her 39 years as a Harmons grocery chain employee.  

“When I retired in 2005, I was Harmons’ vice president of Real Estate and Government Affairs,” she said. “It was my job to select store sites and acquire land. That background helped as the city began negotiating with new businesses wanting to move in.”

But now Barbour said it’s time to let others take over the heavy lifting of Taylorsville City government. One thing she said she won’t do, is move back to the state she was born and raised in — Indiana.

“I was born in Indiana, graduated from high school there and got married there,” she said. “But my husband’s parents moved here to Utah in the late-1950s, and when we came to visit a few times, we both fell in love with the mountains. Where else can you go with this kind of beautiful scenery and four distinct seasons? We moved here in July 1962 and knew we were here for good.”

Barbour and her husband have visited all 50 states together, along with much of Canada and Mexico. So, she’s not sure how much traveling they will be doing.

“Politics has fascinated me, and I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “But I won’t be coming to any city council meetings for quite a while. The new (elected officials) need to grow into their positions without me hanging around. I may help establish a community council in my district, but that will be the extent of my political future.”