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The City Journals

None of the three Taylorsville elected officials seeking reelection face opponents

Sep 13, 2021 11:40AM ● By Carl Fauver

Mayor Kristie Overson and Councilmember Meredith Harker (L-R) defeated election opponents to earn their positions four years ago. This election season they are unopposed. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

It’s a good thing Taylorsville residents are getting more than their fair share of political controversy at the national level, because back home election excitement is right up there with watching paint dry. While Washington D.C. doles out bickering soundbites like Old Faithful—only more frequently than every 90 minutes—local elected officials are simply not keeping pace.

As a result, every incumbent seeking to hold their current elected position—two councilwomen and one mayor—need only one vote in order to do so. Facing no opponents, Mayor Kristie Overson, District 3 Councilmember Anna Barbieri and District 4 Councilmember Meredith Harker will all remain on the job.

It’s a far cry from how each earned their current positions the first time around.

As a member of the Taylorsville City Council four years ago, Kristie Overson chose to challenge incumbent Mayor Larry Johnson at the ballot box, defeating the one-term mayor 57% to 43%. Now, four years later, Johnson is back on the ballot as a finalist in the District 5 city council race. That’s a post he held in 2013, prior to being elected mayor.

Elementary school teacher Meredith Harker spent all of 2017 attending city council meetings, after deciding early in the year to try to succeed retiring Dama Barbour in the District 4 seat. Harker earned 62% of her district’s votes that November.

As for District 3, Anna Barbieri has served on the council less than a year, after being unanimously elected by the other four council members last fall, to replace Brad Christopherson after he moved out of Taylorsville. She was to face voters for the first time this fall, and then be back on the ballot in two years to restore her position to its four-year voting cycle.

Prior to her move to the city council last October, Barbieri had been the longest-tenured member of the Taylorsville Planning Commission, serving 10 ½ years.

“I loved the planning commission and never would have challenged Brad [Christopherson for his city council position]; he did so well,” Barbieri said. “But after he moved, I was happy to put my name in [for the special election]. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

With none of the three facing opponents, the question is obvious: are Taylorsville residents apathetic about local government or satisfied with their current leadership? Overson is confident it’s the latter.

“Our recent public survey results have been very positive, and I think the good marks reflect what residents are thinking, that they are happy with what we are doing,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised to be unopposed because, honestly, campaigning takes a lot of time. It was easier [four years ago] when I was not mayor. But this is more than a full-time job. People will still see me door knocking and campaigning. But it will be easier than if I had an opponent.”

Those public opinion surveys Overson mentioned have shown she and the city council members enjoying a near 90% approval rating among Taylorsville voters. 

“I was more relieved than surprised when I found out I was unopposed (for the District 4 council seat),” Harker said. “It would have been interesting to have an opponent. But I take [the lack of an opponent] as, people in my district think I am doing OK.”

As a full-time working mother of four—holding a demanding position as a Calvin Smith Elementary School (2150 West 6200 South) third grade teacher—Harker admits, she was a bit apprehensive about tossing her hat into the ring four years ago. 

“I was nervous about school teaching and serving on the council,” she said. But it has been amazing to do it all. I think the two jobs complement each other. Being involved with the community through school helps me understand family needs. It has been a good blend. And timewise it has worked out well. I love both so much, and they are so different.” 

Barbieri also juggles her part-time city council work with a full-time “real” job. More than 25 years ago, she and her sister launched White Elegance, a clothing manufacturer specializing primarily in dresses for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to wear while performing temple activities.

“I was really happy [to hear I was unopposed], and I think that says a lot about the direction Taylorsville is heading; people seem pretty happy,” Barbieri said. “It says a lot about the great job Brad [Christopherson] was doing before me. He was also unopposed [two years ago].”

Barbieri said the job has been more taxing than the decade she spent on the Taylorsville Planning Commission.

“It’s quite a bit heavier workload,” she said. “But [serving on the] planning commission was the perfect job to prepare me. It’s really rewarding to answer constituent questions, about many different topics. It’s been harder but also more enjoyable than I expected.”

None of the three unopposed incumbents find it relevant that they are women in their positions or believe that was a factor in no one running against them. But, at the same time, they all believe it is valuable to have both male and female points of view addressing Taylorsville issues together.

As for accomplishments during their time in office, all three believe there have been several.

“Getting Google Fiber into Taylorsville is wonderful—a much-needed amenity,” Overson said. “I’m also excited about the funding we have gotten from the legislature for our [bus rapid transit] line that’s coming in. And I am super excited we will now have a lovely, finished campus (Centennial Plaza) in front of city hall.”

“I’m happy with the way we’ve grown the Parks & Recreation Committee, because beautifying our city is a very high priority,” Harker said. “Our Labrum Park project is going well. It’s a joy to work with that committee and the Historic Preservation Committee. I’m also pleased with the progress we make every day on economic development.”

Meantime, Barbieri is proud of a recent council vote to improve housing in Taylorsville. Earlier this year, a zoning change opened the door for 647 apartment units to be constructed on 16.5 acres on the southwest corner of 5400 South and Bangerter Highway, in a residential and commercial development to be called “West Point.”

“People will come to see how we do high-density [residential development] at Bangerter and 5400 [South],” she said. “[West Point] will also help development in the rest of that area and start a chain reaction into Kearns. That is exciting to me. The completion of the [Mid-Valley] Performing Arts Center is another [city council accomplishment I am proud of]. It is a wonderful place to house quality productions, and well-needed on the [Salt Lake Valley’s] west side.” 

All three women also mentioned the sense of accomplishment they feel about the successful launch of the new Taylorsville City police department two months ago.

Of the three, only Barbieri will commit to planning to run for her position again. However, her next election is only two years away. Overson and Harker each have another four years to make that choice. Both say they have not ruled out seeking reelection in November 2025.

But whether they would say it out loud or not, if Barbieri, Harker or Overson do run again, they are each silently hoping it will be as easy to do as it is this fall, with no other names on the ballot.