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The City Journals

Council helps clear path for minorities to have stronger voice in government

Apr 10, 2018 04:36PM ● By Carl Fauver

Members of the new Taylorsville Diversity Advisory Committee include leaders of the American Venezuelan Association of Utah, including (L-R) President Carlos Moreno, Vice President Maria Liliana Reams and Treasurer Thomas Reams. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

In an effort to draw new and different voices into municipal government and community volunteerism, the Taylorsville City Council unanimously voted to create the city’s first new service committee in years.

“Emphatically yes,” is what Council Vice Chairman Dan Armstrong said, as he and the other council members approved a citizen request for the establishment of a new Diversity Advisory Committee.

“I know this is our first new committee in at least the six years I have been involved in city government,” said Mayor Kristie Overson, who was a council person for six years before winning her mayoral election last fall. “They approached me the night I was sworn into office with the idea, which I think is great. I believe the committee will create more opportunities for government inclusion, and it should help bring in more volunteers.”

Leading the drive to create the new committee were members of the American Venezuelan Association of Utah, an organization headquartered in Taylorsville. The president of the association, Carlos Moreno, is the person who ran the idea past Overson, moments after she took her oath of office.

“(Overson) was very open to the idea from the moment I mentioned it,” Moreno said. “And she has been very supportive as we have work through the details to get it done.”

Moreno has lived in Taylorsville since immigrating to the United States from Venezuela in 2009 to attend Salt Lake Community College. A few years later he was SLCC’s first ethnically diverse student body president. “And since my election, that’s all they have had is minority presidents,” he said.

Moreno said he has been considering approaching city leaders to discuss ways to more actively involve minorities in the political process for several years.

“The minority community is growing in Taylorsville,” he said. “We want to be active and involved (in city government).”

The city’s newest council member, Curt Cochran, has also witnessed a shift in Taylorsville demographics and is very supportive of the new Diversity Advisory Committee. Moments after the council voted to create the group, he quickly volunteered to be the appointed council member to serve on the committee. 

“Taylorsville has changed a lot in the 30 years I’ve lived here,” Cochran told his fellow council members. “Our demographics are changing, and I am really excited to involve more people.”

The husband and wife team of Thomas and Maria Liliana Reams are also leaders in the Venezuelan Association of Utah, with Maria as vice president and Thomas, treasurer. They were among the contingent at Taylorsville City Hall the night the new committee was established.

“We have a lot to bring to the community,” Maria said. “I have always felt welcome here in Utah, and it is getting even better. But still, many people don’t understand our (Venezuelan) culture. We want to help them understand it and to do what we can to help Taylorsville.”

Maria immigrated to Utah 20 years ago, where she met and married Salt Lake Valley native Thomas Reams.

“The most powerful piece of government in our country is local, city government,” Thomas said. “As the husband of an immigrant, I am excited to help create this link, so more diverse voices can have a say in Taylorsville government.”

Another member of the new Diversity Advisory Committee is a Taylorsville job provider. Immigrant Carlos Trujillo moved to the United States from Venezuela in 2001, earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Utah and his law degree in Michigan. In 2014 he opened his own law office in Taylorsville, with two attorneys, three legal assistants, one paralegal and a receptionist.

“I have worked with Carlos (Moreno) for years, on minority issues,” Trujillo said. “We’ve done a lot at the federal level. We are trying to help immigrants adapt to American culture.” 

Moreno told the council members the four primary objectives of the Diversity Advisory Committee are to:

• Meet regularly and establish committee bylaws

• Develop relationships within diverse neighborhoods

• Recommend city policy changes where appropriate

• Report regularly to the Taylorsville City Council

Applications to join the new Diversity Advisory Committee are now available at Taylorsville City Hall.