Variety of candidates seek city council seats, mayor’s office in West Valley CityJul 15, 2021 11:38AM ● By Darrell Kirby
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
It’s campaign season in West Valley City.
A combined 12 candidates are seeking three seats on the city council and the chance to replace two-term mayor Ron Bigelow, who is not seeking re-election.
Each will be on the ballot for the primary election Aug. 10 for the chance to advance to the general election Nov. 2. The following are some of the stances of each candidate as compiled from direct responses to the West Valley City Journal, campaign websites and social media. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
With Mayor Bigelow deciding not to run for a third term, four people have filed for the West Valley City’s top office. They include three current city council members: Steve Buhler, Karen Lang and Tom Huynh.
Steve Buhler joined the city council in 2010, the longest currently serving member on the council. He is a nearly 30-year resident of West Valley City.
- “I have served three terms on the city council, the last four years as mayor pro tem (elected by the council) and, with Mayor Bigelow stepping down, stepping up to take on this leadership role is the right thing to do.”
- “We are in a good place as far as city government, programs and staffing go. What we need in city government is continued vision and management, not a revolution. My service as mayor will be a seamless continuation of my service on the council: finding ways to incrementally improve city facilities and services to the benefit of our residents.”
- “There are so many things including the changes and improvements we have made to the police and fire departments which have led to better public safety and decreased response times for fire and ambulance calls. One thing I am most proud of is the variety of high- quality new housing we have encouraged to develop in our city including 55-plus housing, the new Residential Estates zoning and the new Sustainability Residential zoning which is just starting to be planned and built. Also our neighborhood revitalization programs for aging neighborhoods, starting with the Idea Houses and now the My Hometown program that has received extensive media coverage.”
An immigrant from Vietnam, Huynh was the first minority to join the city council when he took the District 1 seat serving the diverse northeastern part of the city in 2012.
- “Safety and security is the most important issue to residents of this city. I am strongly committed to this cause, and if elected, I am going to adjust and improve it. I want to make sure we are safe and sound. I will work directly with the police department to make this happen.”
Arnold Jones is a small business owner who is making a second attempt at elected office. He ran unsuccessfully for the city council in 2017 in Salt Lake City. He moved to West Valley City in April 2020.
- “I will promise to work hard at listening to your needs and concerns. I will promise to work to address these issues and either build a better foundation that is realistic and appropriate to address these concerns and/or build on the current agendas that have been implemented and working. This all takes resources. The resources are monetary, physical (people working together), education (learning and/or adapting current and new processes). We will all have to work together to make these necessary changes occur,” Jones stated on his campaign website.
Jones’ list of issues facing West Valley City includes homelessness, hunger, employment and law enforcement.
Karen Lang has lived in the city for almost four decades. She has represented District 3 on the city council since 2012. She and her husband are owners of Oakbridge Greenhouse.
- “I am running for mayor because I enjoy serving the people of West Valley. One key issue is density. We have little land available for development. We need to plan carefully for the best use of vacant land and be mindful to plan for redevelopment of older properties.”
- “Key issues I would address as mayor are a responsible budget, managed land use, public safety, maintenance of city roads and city properties.”
- “I am proud of my time as a city council member and my work towards better residential developments such as Newton Farms, our improvements to our fire stations, and new business growth.”
City Council - District 2
Three candidates, all political newcomers, are running for the seat covering the southcentral/southeastern sector of the city: Chris Bell, Scott Harmon and Philip Wayman.
Bell has been a West Valley City resident for four years.
- “We should be holding regular town hall forums in our districts where the residents can hear from and talk with our council members. When new housing developments are being considered, we should be reaching out to the communities that will be affected and not just expecting everyone to show up to city council to voice their concerns on our schedule.”
- “Clean air is something we face a shortage of in the Salt Lake Valley. As one of the largest cities in the state, we need to be an effective leader on this issue. West Valley City has been making positive strides on this issue by installing more energy efficient equipment at the Maverik Center and other city-owned properties and by working to provide for a cleaner fleet of vehicles. We cannot expect these positive changes to keep happening if we don't elect people that will actively prioritize cleaning up our environment.”
- “West Valley City has one of, if not the best, police forces in the state. We have gone from having a police department that was plagued with issues and negative press to one that wins national police competitions and has been nationally accredited. We have expanded the use of social workers and have helped to reduce response times to 911 calls by reducing the number of people that were habitual 911 callers by directing them to other non-emergency services to get them the help that they need. We can't stop there. We need to continue to search out and identify what are the best practices for handling the myriad of situations that our officers face on a daily basis. We also need to make sure that our officers and detectives are being fairly compensated for the service that they are providing to us.”
Except for a few early years of his marriage, Scott Harmon has spent almost his entire life in West Valley City. He has worked in real estate and affordable housing for 24 years.
- “During my career in real estate and housing, I have become keenly aware of the development and housing needs of our area. Affordable housing, land development and growing smartly are important challenges we face. I will try to help the city find ways to preserve our great legacy and create a bright future for our kids. One of the upcoming challenges will be how we envision redevelopment activities over the next 20 years.”
- “The Harmon family has deep roots in West Valley City, and I care deeply about its future. We care about our community and want to be involved in the direction and progress of West Valley City.”
- “I am a fiscal conservative. My commitment is to get the most value for our tax dollars. I will make sure that the city is spending money on the things we truly need.”
Wayman has lived in West Valley City for 35 years. He ran for the council in 2017, but came up short. Wayman did not respond to an email inquiry from The Journal about his campaign by the deadline for this issue.
City Council - District 4
Incumbent Jake Fitisemanu and challenger Darrell Curtis are vying to represent West Valley City’s southwestern section.
Darrell Curtis, a 25-year West Valley resident, has run unsuccessfully for the city council before. In a document submitted with his latest candidate filing with the city recorder’s office, it states:
- “He wants families to feel safe in the community by taking steps to ensure security. He will increase the number of police officers and adjust salaries to attract and retain quality officers. He will work to increase the safety of the community by increasing the number of street lights.”
- “He reviewed the city’s budget and identified ways to improve efficiency by eliminating waste while improving production. He is never afraid to ask the hard questions to ensure that public funds are used effectively.”
- “There are many vacant commercial properties and he will reach out to the business community to attract more businesses to the city.”
- “As West Valley City's negative reputation precedes it and its citizens, it will be one of Darrell's initiatives to work on improving West Valley City’s reputation.”
Jake Fitisemanu, Jr.
Jake Fitisemanu is seeking re-election to the seat he has held since 2018. The native New Zealander has resided in West Valley City for 15 years and is the first Samoan-American on the city council.
He posted the following on his Facebook page in June:
- “I couldn't be more proud to represent the vibrant, lively, growing community I live in and it's a privilege to work with such great colleagues and partners to elevate the voices of my neighbors throughout this city.”
- “West Valley is Utah's second biggest city—the most ethnically diverse—with all the big-city issues you would expect from a place where 140,000 people live...and we wouldn't choose to raise our daughters anywhere else in this state.”
- “I'm running again because there is still work to do and because a city is more than a housing index, tax codes, crime rates, and growth projections...a city is first and foremost comprised of people, and the human capital and growth potential of our community is too phenomenal for me not to stand up and help create bridges to success through civic engagement.”
City Council At-large
Three candidates want the seat now held by Lars Nordfelt: the incumbent himself, Jim Vesock and Max Weiss.
Lars Nordfelt is running for a third term on the city council in the community where he has spent most of his life growing up, attending school and now raising his own family.
- “The work of the city council is really a balancing act. The council must decide between tax rates and levels of city services, between preserving the rights of landowners and protecting the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood. These, and other issues, are difficult challenges and I do not pretend to have all the answers today.”
- “I will approach the issue with an open mind and make sure I hear all of the concerns before I form an opinion.”
- “I will compromise. Solutions to complicated issues are rarely found at one extreme. Often the best solution is one where neither party is completely satisfied. I will work with all to seek the decision that will most benefit the city.”
- “I will make the best decision for the long-term future of the city. The city is far more important than my political career, and I am not afraid to make the right decision even if it will hurt me politically.”
Jim Vesock can often be seen at West Valley City events and at meetings of various city government panels, speaking out on a variety of issues affecting his adopted hometown.
He now wants to take his voice to the city council.
- “I believe West Valley City is the jewel of Utah. But even a jewel can use a bit of polishing. I believe, together, we can create the changes and address the issues that will make West Valley City shine even brighter than the jewel that it is already. I love West Valley City and am eager to serve its wonderful residents. That’s why I’m running for city council.”
- “(I’m) a strong advocate of public safety and (believe) West Valley City has the most well-trained police and fire departments in Utah.”
Max Weiss has called West Valley City home since 2018. This is his first attempt running for public office.
- “ I see myself as a bipartisan politically speaking, always taking an interest in politics, democracy and our constitution. I was elected to the student body senate while in college and represented the Native American students on campus. There needs to be full transparency and accountability in politics.”
- I see both a racist, sexist, and ethical bridge between and in society today. Hopefully not as strong in Utah as in other parts of our country. I would like to see them removed.”