Eight candidates vie for Cedar City government in upcoming election
By Holly Coombs
As city elections draw near in the coming months, eight individuals have announced candidacy — two for mayor and six for city council.
Current Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson has announced her campaign for re-election. Wilson said as mayor she has had the opportunity to help community members solve problems and work to make Cedar City the best city possible.
“I also absolutely love working with the youth in the community and talking with them about the importance of education and following their dreams (no matter how crazy they may seem to others,” she said. “Beyond the time spent with our residents, I believe one of my critical roles as Mayor is to promote our community to others throughout the region, state and nation.”
Doing such requires building relationships and working with all different types of individuals from all different backgrounds.
“Through these relationships and working to promote our city, I have had the opportunity to work both with our State and Federal Legislators to solve different issues that we face here in Cedar City,” Wilson said.
She said in addition to amazing experiences working with community members and youth, she has had the opportunity to learn first-hand from various city departments and its roles.
“From being attacked by a K-9 police dog, to getting in the trenches during a waterline replacement and everything else in between it has been fascinating to spend time learning from the best,” Wilson said.
One of the most important aspects of serving as mayor, Wilson said is having the ability to work with individuals from all different backgrounds for “the betterment of our City.”
“So often government is seen as a road block, however, I have found that when there are problems, the best solutions often occur when those involved in the situation can sit together at the table and discuss the issues at hand,” she said. “Not only does this allow everyone to voice their concerns, but it also provides an avenue for them to be a part of the ultimate solution.”
Wilson said she also has experienced the importance of building relationships when no problems are present, which allows for a foundation of trust if a situation arises.
“For example, when I was elected Mayor I decided that I wanted to not only meet the employees if there was a problem but also go to their office and spend time learning about their job and role within the City,” she said. While this has led to some interesting experiences including joining the Fire Department’s annual pack test running multiple miles with a 45-pound pack on my back or having lunch at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, taking the time to really get to know our City employees has built trust during the good times so we more efficiently can work through problems when they arise.”
Wilson said she also finds it important to ensure those she works with are aware that she cares about them.
I also believe that is critical to empower our employees to do their job,” she said. “I think for an organization to be successful is necessary to have the best possible people in their positions and then for the management/leaders to get out of the way, in turn empowering their employees not only to do their jobs but also to have the authority and accountability to complete their assigned duties.”
Wilson said she has met her running mate, Ryan Durfee, but does not know him well. Of her running against him, she said she believes democracy works best when people have a choice.
“Therefore, I am delighted when people decide they want to get involved in our community, learn about the issues and impact our residents and be part of the solution.”
Wilson said she wants Cedar City citizens to consider her five-point plan as she runs again for her current position.
- Economic Development
- City Beautification
- Prairie Dogs
- Water and Sewer.
“Over the past four years we have made great progress as a City in each of these five areas, however, there is a lot of work left to do,” she said. “If I am given the opportunity to continue serving the people of Cedar City in addition to furthering the above goals, I am committed to continuing working each day to accomplish the following:”
- Ensure that Cedar City is a safe place for our residents to live and work.
- Continue to actively recruit new, good paying jobs while supporting our current businesses, allowing Cedar City to be as business friendly as possible.
- Provide a transparent, accountable, accessible, and respectful government for both the community at large and for our elected officials.
“I am running because I feel a debt of service to be able to live in such an incredible place amongst such creative, hardworking and giving individuals,” Mayoral candidate Ryan Durfee said. “I am running to show my incredible history students I have taught at Cedar Middle School that I keep my word. Over the years, many of my students have told me since I am encouraging them to be active in the political process, to register to vote and be candidates themselves, that I should do so as well.”
In addition, Durfee said he is running because no candidate should ever run unopposed.
“Having to be accountable to those you represent is an important part of the democratic process,” he said.
As the next possible mayor, Durfee said he would like to do is hear more from the people of Cedar City.
“I would like to get to know and talk with as many of our citizens as possible, find out what they like about Cedar, what we are doing well, or what we could improve upon,” he said.
He said he has already had ideas shared including:
- Build a new animal shelter for Cedar City. Our facility right now is small and stretched to the breaking point. Those who work there are making the best of what they have but it is not enough.
- Raise the salaries of the hardworking city employees. Our first responders, police, fire, EMT, put in a lot of work in very tough scenarios. These employees, as well as all city employees, should be compensated more fairly.
- Get Cedar fit. We have a lot of great facilities and businesses with the mission to help our people with their health. Find ways to help connect more of us to these opportunities.
- Work more closely with Southern Utah University to develop more opportunities for employment in our area for graduates. President Wyatt is creative and motivated to see SUU grow; our city should match the presidents’ vision, his staff and faculty in this goal.
- Provide a way for better dialogue for individuals in the city to be able to share ideas and to know what is happening in our community. I believe the mayor should not just be an individual who shows up for events and waves. The mayor should be consistently listening and questioning ways to help citizens.
- Prepare for and manage the coming growth. As more and more people discover our wonderful way of life in Cedar City, our city is going to grow. We need to be preparing for that growth so that it is well balanced and well managed. Our goal should be to maintain as much of the small-town friendliness and stewardship even as the city expands in population.
- Work to support our local businesses, their owners and employees. The mayor needs to encourage more businesses to make Cedar City their home.
“These are just a few of the ideas I have heard, so far,” he said. “I would encourage all in our community to share their ideas.”
Durfee encourages citizens to friend request him on Facebook and share ideas that are important to them with him.
He has lived in Cedar City for 20 years ago and he has since been involved in many parts of the community with his family including participation in the Utah Shakespeare Festival, volunteering in schools, coaching soccer, teaching music, acting and directing plays and more.
“I have taught accounting, business, economics and group and individual guitar instruction classes at Southern Utah University, Durfee said. “For the past 11 years, I have been teaching at Cedar Middle School. I have enjoyed teaching and learning from my students at Cedar Middle School.”
He said he wants the public to know that he is running his campaign without donations, that he has a diverse background, which he hopes will be of benefit in the position of Mayor.
“In college I studied accounting, music and Japanese and after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business and Japanese, I completed a master’s degree in accounting with a tax emphasis,” Durfee said. “After graduate school, I worked for the accounting firm KPMG-Peat Marwick in Dallas, Texas, where I practiced in their International Tax Department.”
He was raised in Orem and from a family of four, where he said he knows he was his mother’s favorite. Durfee married to Melanie Valentine of Farmington, Utah,
“We have been together now for 33 years,” he said. “Melanie is also teaching in the Iron School District and is a math specialist at Cedar Middle School. We have two daughters, Dyana, a graduate of the University of Utah and who lives and works in Salt Lake City and Joanna, who graduated in Biology at Southern Utah University and who has moved to Ivins to attend Rocky Vista School of Medicine.”
City Council Candidates
Ron Adams, who currently serves on the council and has been for approximately seven years, said he has decided to run for another term.
“I have decided to run for another term using my long-time quote of: Proper planning prevents poor performance,” he said. “Cedar City will see some growth in the next five years and that will require some quality planning to provide infrastructure, water and zoning to meet those needs.”
Adams, who is mostly retired, said has the time to take great care in making decisions for the city.
“I will continue to spend my time reviewing the proposals presented and visiting every department in the city so that I can be ears to those who are working the day-to-day operations, which helps me to make better decisions when it comes time to vote,” he said. ” I have always and will continue to gather all data from all sides and base my decisions on that data not any personal agenda.”
Adams’ experience with the city over the years has included:
- Board of Adjustments for six years prior to his first city council election.
And after his election:
- Service on the City Planning Commission for four years
- Cedar City Transportation Committee
- Current Chairman of the Rural Development Agency, Municipal Building Authority, and Iron County Local Homeless Coordinating Committee
- Currently serving on the Leisure Services Advisory Board, Cedar City Trails Committee, and the Downtown Parking Authority Committee
Some other past experience that has helped Adams serve on the City Council:
- Graduate of the Utah Association of Realtors Leadership Class.
- Past President of the Iron County Board of Realtors.
- Chairman for the Utah Association of Realtors Housing Opportunity Fund.
- Served and continue to serve in many leadership positions in his church.
Adams said he has enjoyed with his fellow council members to find solutions to issues that come before them.
“I know that it is not possible to please everyone,” he said. “I enjoy hearing all sides and then go to work studying the solutions through talking to all parties, staff and anyone else that may have more insight than I have. I have made so many new friends through attending events and serving on committees.”
Adams said she loves committees because it allows citizens to become involved in tough issues that are faced in the city.
“. . . and many of them have way more knowledge on a particular topic that make the decision process better,” he said. “I have learned what it takes to operate an effective and efficient city within a balanced budget. I have enjoyed my visiting all departments and getting to know each one of our employees and what they do.”
Adams said he wants the public to know that he has served on the council with no personal agenda.
“I know I vote, with having researched out every item and use the facts to make my decision. I am honest in working with people and take pride in remaining that way and not let personal thoughts take over what really should happen,” he said. ” It is hard because things have a tendency to get emotional on some issues, but the strength lies in making the best decision after much study as a lot of the emotion could be left out if they had studied all the facts and not just one side.”
Adams, a Cedar City resident for the past 60 years, is married with four children and 11 grandchildren.
He said he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball where he obtained nine letters from high school — three in each sport.
“I coached Little League Baseball for ten years,” Adams said. “I am an eagle scout and that led me to working with youth scouts and helping them to become eagles also for 10 plus years.
I feel that I have made a difference to the council these past years and feel I can do more in the next four years. My plans are to fully retire at the end of this next term if the voters feel the need to have me continue to serve them.”
He said his favorite thing about council thus far has been being able to make the decisions that make the city the great place that it is.
“Planning for the future with the proper infrastructure, water, and ordinances that allow progress and invite companies to come to Cedar to provide jobs so that we can all enjoy each other in a safe and secure place we can call home,” Adams said. “I want to stay involved and see that our police, fire and emergency workers have what they need to continue to make Cedar the great place it is.”
Another retired and well-known community figure vying for a council positon is R. Scott Phillips.
Phillips recently retired from executive director of the Shakespeare Festival after more than 20 years.
“They say (the council position) is a part-time position, but it’s a lot of work to consider many situations that effect the city and community,” he said. “I have been in the community 42 years as I’ve worked for the Utah Shakespeare Festival and other years as a student, so, I’ve been a part of the community almost 50 years. I want to give back to the community because it has been so good to me.”
Phillips said wants the public to know he gives 110 percent in what he does.
“I want to serve all the community,” he said. “They may look at what I have done as part of the arts and Shakespeare Festival, but I am passionate about education, recreation and tourism and I want to find ways for Leisure Services to get jobs and bring more businesses to the community.”
He emphasized the need for infrastructure in the city’s future.
“I commend the current council and the effort with the Iron County Conservancy Water District on what they are doing to make sure the community has the water and recharge,” Phillips said. “That is something we need.”
He said he believes saving and re-energizing the downtown is important.
“We have got to have a vibrant downtown. I don’t discount other businesses at all,” Phillips said. “The downtown is the heart of the community and I want to help make sure new businesses and new attractions are coming.”
Bruce Hughes, a Cedar City resident and participant in community affairs for more than 20 years, said his friends and associates have encouraged him to run for public office because of his experience and expertise.
“Two years ago, I partnered with Caleb Rees, a CPA who is buying out my CPA practice over the next eight years,” Hughes said. “With his encouragement and support, I now have the time to devote to the city council undertaking, which I am very excited about.”
He said with the population going up rapidly since he moved to Cedar City 20 years ago, he doesn’t want to see Cedar City become another St. George, but keep its unique small town environment.
“But remaining a small town still requires us to be economically viable and healthy, and we will continue to grow,” Hughes said. “I am a CPA and a Realtor involved with clients in financial affairs, real estate and construction. I understand the financial concerns citizens have and the financial concerns the City deals with. I am a problem solver and have the experience and expertise to help with these important issues.”
He said some points he feels important include:
- The overall City budget and solving the operation and maintenance (O&M) problems of the Aquatic Center and the Heritage Center
- Supporting post-high school education and training opportunities for our students through SUU and SWATC.
- Well-paying job creation for our citizens and children.
- Viability of our downtown area.
- Supporting policies that help keep housing costs affordable.
- Proper planning for growth.
Hughes, a small-town boy who moved to a big city for work said he decided to move to Cedar City 24 years ago after selling his business.
“I didn’t know a person here, but it was the kind of small town I wanted to get back to,” he said. “I was very pleasantly surprised at how dynamic the community is and how giving the people are and have loved every minute. Since coming, I have been very involved in the community and church. I currently serve on the boards of Cedar City Hospital, Cedar City Music Arts, Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival, Friends of Iron County Police K-9’s, SUU Audit Committee, SWATC Foundation, Cedar City Trap Club and PETPO. Cedar is renowned since pioneer times as a can-do community and it is fun to be involved with people who have that attitude today.”
Hughes said he is known as the “Prairie Dog Guy” for his eight-year fight with local and national agencies to bring fairness to private property owners infested with the UPD.
“I was one of the founders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners and assisted with the lawsuit that brought common sense to the UPD problem,” he said. “We really are a can-do community.”
Scott Johnson, another council candidate said he believes city council is not currently the representative of Cedar City Citizens.
“This is a young college and family town, the jobs available are mainly blue collar, and there is no one currently on Cedar’s City Council that accurately represents the average citizen anymore,” Johnson said.
He grew up in an army family and said his father instilled strong moral values and helped him grow to understand just how much dedication, hard work and sacrifice it takes to provide for those you care about.
“My mother Andrea was formerly a teacher, and aside from being an amazing educator, she taught me the value of education and being well versed on a multitude of subjects,” Johnson said. “I have one brother, Benjamin Johnson, who is an accomplished musician.”
With a background of a youth mentor, former activities director at Brookdale Senior Living, film industry and more, he said it has provided him the opportunity to meet many types of people.
“I love the people of this town and will do right by the people of this town as it continues to evolve, grow, and thrive as one of the best places to live in Utah,” Johnson said.
He said he feels it is also time for some fresh eyes on the council.
“Someone new, fresh, and ready to build not just other citizens futures; but their own future, their kids future, and their grandkids future,” Johnson said. “Someone who has the best interest in the town, has foresight when it comes to the towns economy and plans, and someone who is willing to listen to new/different points of view.”
He said he chose to run because he is the candidate he described and that he believes in building a long-term plan to help Cedar City grown and flourish.
Johnson said he wants to revitalize Cedar City by bringing new jobs, growth and help to current businesses to strive.
“I wish to help advertise Cedar City and all its surroundings in an effort to help bring in tourism and boost local business to new heights,” he said. “I am open-minded and willing to hear all sides of discussions and hope to bring a fresh set of eyes and ears that is more representative of the younger generations and blue collar workers, here in Cedar City. As a part of the younger group of citizens here in Cedar City, and part of Cedar’s future I strive to make long lasting impacts that will help the town flourish and continue in its growth.”
Johnson said he also strives to make mental health programs more readily available for all Cedar City citizens.
“With Utah ranking as having the fifth highest suicide rate, according to 2014 data, released December 2015, I believe that mental health is an issue that needs to be discussed, changes need to be made and actions need to be taken seriously,” he said. “We can do our part in changing these statistics by leading the rest of the state by example.”
Johnson said he will look forward to doing right by the citizens of Cedar City “regardless of race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or age.”
“Regardless of any differences, we all share space in our local community and I will help unite us all in striving to continue building our community and making Cedar City one of the best places to live in Utah,” he said.
Rich Gillette, who has served the city for almost ten years on the Board of Adjustments and the Planning Commission, is also running for a spot on the city council.
“The time seems good to serve the city on the city council with an open seat and with my experience,” Gillette said.
He said as a potential member of the council his hope would be to continue the recruitment of good jobs and companies and to retain the jobs and current companies.
“Economic Development is key on all fronts,” Gillette said. “Also, to encourage the same path with downtown development, more exciting shops and restaurants.”
Gillette, a Cedar City resident since 1985, said When he moved to Cedar City to attend SUU he knew he would never leave because he fell in love with the city.
“My birthday happens to fall on Cedar City’s birthday, which is) kind of cool,” he said. “Many years I have served with Lions Club, as its president in 1999, and as its state district governor in 2013.”
Gillette said the coming Independence Day Celebration will be the 14th that he has helped the Lions Club with.
“For 20 plus years I have been in the Real Estate industry here in Cedar City,” he said.
Gillette said he is proud of his three daughters. His oldest graduated from SUU and is enjoying her career in Cedar City.
“My other two are attending Canyon View High School,” he said. “We love living in Fiddlers Canyon. For fun we enjoy the Library, Lake at the Hills and all the city parks, especially Cedar Ridge Golf Course.”
Gillette said he hopes the public will consider him for the council position.
Another Cedar City resident Andrew McAffee is also running for the chance for a council spot. Iron County Today did not receive a response from McAffee about his campaign.