ST. GEORGE – A new mayor and two new city council members took their oaths of office Monday at noon in the City Council chambers at St. George City Hall.
Mayor Jon Pike was sworn into office by Utah Fifth District Judge Eric Ludlow, alongside newly elected council members Michele Randall and Joe Bowcutt. Family, friends, and supporters gathered to watch the inauguration.
“It’s neat to be sworn in by someone like Judge Ludlow, who is a friend,” Pike said.
A number of local state officials attended the ceremony, including state Sen. Steve Urquhart, along with state Reps. Don Ipson and Lowry Snow.
The swearing-in ceremony was followed by a brief City Council meeting to begin the process of selecting an appointee to fill the City Council seat that was vacated when Pike was sworn in as mayor.
The council approved the application form which is now posted on the city website. The position is open to any interested applicant who is a registered voter and has resided in St. George for the past year. The deadline to apply for the open seat is Jan. 15 at 5 p.m.
The selection process will not be easy, Councilwoman Michele Randall said. “I know that it’s going to be hard work.”
Each applicant will be interviewed by the assembled council at a public hearing in council chambers. The appointment will not be determined by a simply majority vote, but rather a unanimous consensus must be reached by all five members. The vote for the appointment is scheduled to take place on Jan. 23 at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting at 4 p.m.
“You’re not going to be able to please everybody,” Randall said. “If you have 40 people apply,” she said, “you are going to have 39 disappointed people.”
The new city councilors will have quite a bit to learn in the coming weeks. The city council is ultimately responsible for every project, program, and service that the city provides or undertakes throughout the year. The council holds the city’s purse strings and is responsible for approving the budget, as well as approving any significant expenditures for all departments.
Randall and Bowcutt attended a two-hour training session immediately following the meeting, along with the new mayor.
“It’s just kind of learn as you go,” Randall said. “As far as land issues and zoning and all that, the best place to learn that is by attending the planning commission meetings,” she said. “Even if I’m not assigned to the planning commission, I’ll probably go to those meetings, because I would like to learn that.”
“It’s kind of like being a fish out of water, at first,” she said. “I’ll be asking lots of questions.”
One of the first things Pike would like to do, once the vacant council seat has been filled, is to look at ways to allow for more public involvement in city governance. Council meetings will soon be moved later in the day on Thursdays Pike said, beginning at 5 p.m. rather than at 4 p.m., to allow more people to attend the meetings after work.
“This is something I’m pretty firm on,” Pike said. “I’ve already explored it with the city manager and City Council.”
He will also like to have the council’s support in opening up more space in council meetings for public input. On the homepage of the city website, Pike has outlined several ideas, such as allowing time at the first council meeting of every month for comments and questions from the public. Currently, the council only opens the podium to the general public at special sessions held once each quarter.
“I like to have plans,” Pike said, “I’m a planner by nature.”
A lot of planning goes on in each city department, Pike said, and he’d like to synthesize and summarize each of those plans into a single document:
“I’d like to wrap all that together and really have an executive summary version that takes all of the different city departments, and all of the projects, and all the things that are going to happen in the next five years and distill it into a single document of no more than 10 pages, so people can see our priorities and the things I’m hoping to help accomplish.”
It’s important to lay a strong foundation for the future, he said, laying out a groundwork for how the city will grow over the next five or even ten years.
“Maybe none of us currently in the city government will even be in place then,” Pike said, “but it’s our duty to lay these things out, let voters decide what they want to do, and proceed towards that.”
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