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The City Journals

Midvale looks to familiar face as its new city manager

Jun 08, 2021 12:28PM ● By Erin Dixon

Matt Dahl takes the oath of office in front of Midvale City Council in May. (Photo courtesy Midvale City)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Matt Dahl succeeds Kane Loader as Midvale’s city manager. Loader worked in the position for 14 years before he retired earlier this year. 

“My choice for the new city manager was to choose someone who could help maintain the inertia and direction the city has,” Mayor Robert Hale said to city councilmembers. “It has developed a cadre of staff that is second to none. It’s not our job to be on the forefront but it’s to learn what will work best...in these conditions we’re in.”

“[Matt has] had sufficient experience to know when to put the brakes on something and when we need to forge forward with evermore clarity in what we want.”

One Midvale resident had positive things to say about Dahl’s follow-through.

Stacey Phillips lives on the northeast end of Midvale. Since she moved in, large trucks leaving the freeway shook the whole neighborhood. Phillips says she spoke often with the former city manager over a two-year period to solve the problem. Her neighbor worked for eight years prior on the same issue. The shaking became worse as the road degraded over time.  

In 2020, she voiced her concerns at a city council meeting. “Matt Dahl followed me out after I spoke to the council…,” Phillips said. “He said he had seen some of the emails and would work to get this fixed.”

“In the next few weeks Matt kept his word, he emailed and called frequently to keep me updated and finally, after three years, on Aug. 30 the transition was paved. He literally saved my sanity; he saved our homes from more damage,” Phillips said.  

After 13 years in Salt Lake City with the redevelopment agency, Dahl moved to Midvale City as housing manager. Nearly every year he worked for Midvale he was promoted to a new position. From housing to RDA director, to community development to assistant city manager and now manager. 

“I’m excited to work every day,” Dahl told Midvale City Journal. “There’s a lot of opportunities in Midvale. I look forward to working with the residents and businesses to keep Midvale a great city.”

His goals are: High-quality development that supports strong, stable neighborhoods; maintain infrastructure (aging water pipes, above ground power lines); maintain park space; and increase public communication.

Jordan Bluffs development will continue. There is a master plan that dictates the general direction of the area, but the individual pieces will need fine tuning.

“Figuring out how roads connect, phased park construction, making sure it all fits together,” Dahl said. 

He has a different approach to traditional city planning. 

“[Previously], we made very clear, here’s the residential area, here’s where the new [construction] is going,” Dahl said. “We have disjointed development. One of the big things I would like to work on…is trying to find ways to make those areas connected so they transition well between different types of neighborhoods.”

“Council has expressed interest in bike lanes and pathways,” Dahl said. “Not every neighborhood needs to be connected but we have a lot of opportunities to improve where it makes sense.”

Staff, elected officials and residents need to consider if their “...community is built for people or cars? At some point it’s going to be really hard to be a three car family in this valley,” Dahl said.

“We’re moving in that direction with form-based code that’s more about how people feel in that environment.”

Form-based code is what overlays the Main Street area, where instead of designating a zone as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., the code allows for many of these at once.

“[We want to] make a mixed-use community and have access to quality education,” Dahl said. “In large parts of the cities we have stable neighborhoods and support those and look for opportunities for [blended] uses.”

“During public hearings, there are often resident comments that they are nervous about increased density, but the state is enforcing increased density in all cities,” he said. 

“How do you mesh long-term planning with current needs? [We] try to incorporate solutions that address neighborhood concerns,” Dahl said. 

Like with an iceberg, “The public has a general understanding of what goes on above water in regards to what the city does,” Dahl said. A lot of work goes unseen below the surface. 

“I can go from issues of enforcement in regards to roosters to talking about multi-million dollar developments,” Dahl said.

“How do we help everyone understand and appreciate everything that we have going on?”

For example, the city has many employees who do a job that is invisible to the public. 

“People say they’re concerned about our water,” Dahl said. “We’re taking hundreds of samples a month and sending it to the state and showing that the quality of our water is great. But no one thinks about the person who is doing that job.”

Some cities struggle with relationships between elected officials and staff. According to Dahl, Midvale is lucky and doesn’t have that struggle. 

“We cooperate with the city council very well and we’re privileged to be in that environment,” Dahl said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements or there aren’t split votes.”

“We all can see that everyone is handling everything in a professional manner and we move on and look for better solutions. Not every community is as fortunate.”