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The City Journals

Hales elected Murray’s mayor, Turner and Cotter to council

Nov 23, 2021 05:01PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Brett Hales moves to the mayor seat, Diane Turner retains her council seat, and Pamela Cotter takes over her former council seat. (Photo courtesy Murray City)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

An old French proverb states that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and perhaps that best sums up Murray’s recent election. With the retirement of Mayor Blair Camp and City Councilor Dale Cox, the Nov. 2 election saw Brett Hales jump from the city council to the mayor’s office, and Pam Cotter returned to a city council seat that she temporarily held four years ago. In addition, Diane Turner returns for a third term on the city council.

Hales, a three-term city councilor first elected to City Council District 5 in 2012, was formerly Vice President of Cyprus Credit Union. Hales emerged from the primary election as the top vote-getter, ahead of the three other candidates, Clark Bullen, Adam Fitzgerald and Alexander Teemsma. Hales’ general election opponent, Bullen, emerged with the primary’s second-highest vote tally.

In the weeks leading up to the election, a common concern voiced in candidate forums was the increased application of turning former retail sites, such as the RC Willey property, into multi-use or high-density residential areas.

Another oft vocalized concern was Murray’s downtown development. Both Hales and Bullen stated at the Sept. 29 Meet-the-Candidates Night that they opposed Murray’s State Street project proposal. However, Hales and Bullen’s approaches to campaigning were very different, with Bullen highly engaged on social media while Hales’ conducted a low-key, word-of-mouth campaign.

With 37% of Murray’s 28,387 registered voters casting ballots in the general election, Hales breezed to the mayor’s office with a commanding 58% of the vote to Bullen’s 42%.

“I am looking forward to hearing from our residents of Murray and welcome their input on ideas to make our city the best in the state. I am also so excited to work with our department heads and with all of our employees. Together we will continue to improve our city and make our residents happy to live here. Finally, I want to thank my opponent for running a clean campaign. I wish him the best,” Hales said.

According to Utah State Code, when Hales is sworn in as the mayor on Jan. 4, 2022, his seat on the council will be considered vacant.

According to City Council Executive Director Jennifer Kennedy, “The City Council must appoint an interim council member within 30 days after the day on which the vacancy occurs. Public notice of the vacancy will be given at that time, notifying residents that applications are being accepted to represent District 5 on the City Council. The notice will be posted at least two weeks before the council meets to fill the vacancy and will include information on where and how to apply to serve.

“The candidates must be registered voters of the city, and in the case of filling this council seat, must be residents of Council District 5. The council must, in an open meeting (the date and time of that meeting have not been determined yet), interview all the candidates who have submitted their names for consideration, and then vote to select the interim council member. The interim council member would serve until Jan. 2, 2024, when the duly elected council member from the general election is sworn into office.”

Electoral turnout was slightly higher in the westside Murray City Council District 2 showdown, with 40% of the voters showing up. Current City Councilor Dale Cox announced that he was not running for re-election. Candidates Pam Cotter, who temporarily filled Blair Camp’s council seat after he became mayor, and Joe Silverzweig, who formerly worked for the State of Utah’s Attorney General’s office, vied to take Cox’s spot.

“I had several people approach me and ask me to run for council. I really enjoyed my time as an interim city council member four years ago and loved being able to speak up for the people in my district. I also believe our democracy works best when people have multiple choices and can pick someone who best represents their interests,” Cotter said.

As there were only two candidates, both Cotter and Silverzweig advanced to the general election. Election night saw Cotter win with the narrowest of all city race margins, claiming 55% of the vote to Silverzweig’s 45%.

“I really enjoyed having the chance to get to know the residents of Murray better. I heard so many amazing stories and learned what the voters really wanted. And if you know anything about me, there’s nothing I like more than a chance to talk with people. There were also times that politics didn’t even come up, and we just had friendly neighborly chats that turned into picking vegetables together or fixing a garbage can for them,” Cotter said.

East Murray’s City Council District 4 race started as a messy situation. Two candidates, Daren Rasmussen, who works for the State of Utah Department of Natural Resources, and Skylar Galt, who was booted as president of the Murray Chamber of Commerce, challenged incumbent Diane Turner.

Galt dropped out of the race just days before the primary election, leaving Rasmussen to contest Turner in the general election. Turner served briefly as Murray’s first female mayor immediately following the death of Mayor Ted Eyre in 2017 and was seeking a third term. She was first elected in 2014.

Turner sailed through the general election with 64% to Rasmussen’s 36%; only 34% of District 4’s registered voters submitted ballots.

“I would like to thank those who voted; the re-election results are very affirming, and I sincerely appreciate the support. I will continue to work hard for the community I love and push for the sustainable, balanced development our citizens want and deserve,” Turner said.

For the first time in Murray’s history, the balance of the city’s elected leaders will be women. With Cotter’s victory, the city council will include four women: Cotter, Turner, Kat Martinez, and Rosalba Dominguez. There is also the potential for another woman to be appointed to fill Hale’s vacant seat.