Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley—past, present and futureDec 01, 2023 12:53PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen
A longtime supporter of local arts, Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley visits with artists at the Annual Plein Air Fair in Salt Lake City. (Jim Bradley)
Jim Bradley was first elected to the Salt Lake County Council as an at-large member (serving the entire county) in 2000. “Yeah, at this moment I’ve been on council for 23 years,” Bradley said with a laugh. “I’m the longest serving member now…and maybe ever.”
As such, he’s seen sweeping changes across the valley and been a part of crafting those changes, as well.
Bradley grew up in a family that was very aware of politics. His parents were educators, his mother taught at Roland Hall-St. Marks and his father retired from serving as the Dean of the College of Business at the University of Utah.
But what really got Bradley interested in politics was his time as a young man “on the streets, protesting the Vietnam War.”
He volunteered during the Frank Moss election in the late ’60s, and when Democrat Wayne Owens ran for congress, Bradley was the first volunteer to sign up. Eventually he received his degree in political science from the University of Utah in 1981.
He’s served the state and county for most of his career, primarily through holding various public offices and jobs. He worked with Drug and Alcohol Services. He wrote grant applications during the 1980’s energy crisis and eventually became the director of the Utah Energy Office. He bounced in and out of private consulting, eventually running for the Salt Lake County Council in the year 2000. It’s a position he’s held ever since.
He’s also served on various boards, from the Utah Film Festival to the Hogle Zoo to the Repertory Dance Theater. He worked with the county to pass the Zoo, Arts & Parks legislation, which provides funding for the widely popular ZAP programs and facilities.
He’s proud of many of the projects he’s worked on from the rebuilding of the Salt Palace in 1990, to sponsoring environmental initiatives to keep the foothills free from overdevelopment.
But one of the things he’s most proud of was the renaming of Symphony Hall (a county owned property) to Abravanel Hall [in 1993] to honor Maurice Abravanel on his 90th birthday. “Abravanel helped establish why arts and culture are important in this community. And I’m happy I was able to help honor him while he was still alive,” Bradley said.
Bradley enjoys serving at the county level because he feels that real “quality of life” issues are done on the local level. “We work on things that affect the daily lives of residents,” Bradley said. “The county services are underappreciated, only in that people don’t understand the many things the county provides.”
Constituents don’t call or reach out as often as he’d like them to. “The county is very transparent in all dealings, but we don’t get a whole lot of feedback unless there is a hot button issue, like mask wearing during Covid.”
One unusual project that Bradley currently enjoys working on is with the 4-H program. Each year the county appropriates money to purchase at auction 4-H raised livestock at the Salt Lake County Fair. The livestock is then donated to the Utah Food Bank. Bradley loves being on the auction floor, interacting with the 4-H kids who he calls “the salt of the earth.”
Though lately Bradley has become “a bit cynical about federal politics and the Utah State Legislature.” He says that the county council works in a “civil and appropriate way to make sure partisanship doesn’t get in the way of funding and county service obligations.” Bradley is one of four Democrats (out of nine elected councilmembers) serving on the county council.
Bradley has decided not to run for the council again, once his term ends in 2024, saying, “There’s other, younger talent out there, and it’s time for me to retire.”
He’ll miss it, but is looking forward to more time with his family and on hobbies, like fishing. He is married and has four adult children and three grandchildren.
His predictions for the future? Bradley has been around to see the ebbs and flows of government, and nothing moves fast, but he believes Democrats will start winning more races. The county demographics have shifted and Salt Lake County is becoming more cosmopolitan, making way for diverse candidates. He is optimistic and still believes that local government is a “place where elected officials can make a difference if they’re willing to work hard.”λ