ST. GEORGE – Eight of the 13 candidates for St. George City Council attended a “meet the candidates” luncheon held by the Dixie Republican Forum Tuesday where forum members heard the candidates’ stances on various issues and gauged who the group might endorse by the luncheon’s end.
Attending the luncheon at The Bell Tower Courtyard on River Road were candidates Greg Aldred, Ed Baca, Joe Bowcutt, Travis Christiansen, Patricia Kent, Jim McCoy, Michelle Randall and Greg Whitehead. Absent were candidates Marianne G. Sorensen, Nathan K. Fisher, Tara Dunn, Matthew Mortenson, and Warren S. Wright, who have declared candidacy for the office.
“This year we don’t have an incumbent running,” city council candidate Ed Baca said.
While 13 individuals filed to run for city council, current council members Ben Nickle and Gail Bunker, whose terms are expiring, were not among them, leaving the two seats wide open for newcomers. There is the possibility of a third council seat also opening up should Councilman Jon Pike win his run for mayor against current Mayor Dan McArthur.
As they were asked questions by forum members, seeking transparency in government and accountability to constituency were common themes among some of the candidates, while others focused more on the need to support small business and diversifying the local economy.
Greg Aldred: “I want to be an ally to small business,” Aldred said. “We restrict them too much.”
Businesses get hammered by regulations and codes, and that needs to be addressed and changed, he said. Part of his focus also revolves around public safety, as well as promoting family recreation in the downtown St. George area. Part of the latter is connected to the future of the Dixie Sunbowl, which Aldred said he would like to see used again.
“I hope you see me as the best balanced candidate,” he said.
Ed Baca: Baca, who has become a fixture at city council meetings, said more checks and balances are needed and that the city needs to strengthen its “conflict of interest” rules. More transparency should also be expected from city government involving litigation against the city, especially since litigation settlements are paid for with tax payer money, he said.
Baca is in favor of establishing citizen advisory boards. He also defended city business licensing practices where others said they felt those were a potential hindrance on small business.
Joe Bowcutt: Bowcutt said he could be a peacemaker on the city council and could bring people together, and work for compromise that will be acceptable to all sides. He also wants to see better communication between the city council and the citizenry, and encourages people with questions and concerns to be proactive and go to the city council about them.
Bowcutt is also concerned with the future of the area’s water supply. According to a pamphlet handed out at the luncheon, “Fully informed decisions need to be made now, no matter how difficult they may be.”
Travis Christiansen: “Too often elected officials take for granted the things the bureaucracy tells them,” Christiansen said.
He said the city council should always challenge what the truth is, no matter who it comes from. He did this as a member of the county school board and said he was able to get positive results.
“Ask questions and challenge,” he said.
Christiansen said he is also strongly in favor of continual diversification of the local economy so it can better ride out any significant economic disruptions in the future.
Patricia Kent: “The government that governs the least governs best,” Kent said. She said she believes this to be true at all levels of government. She added she has issues with particular codes the city passes and then how it chooses to enforce them at times. If elected, she said she would review the city codes and work to get rid of the ones “that don’t bear any weight.”
Concerning accountability, she said the city council is ultimately accountable to the people. “It’s not the city’s council, it’s the people’s council,” she said.
Jim McCoy: McCoy is a relative newcomer to St. George, having moved here 18 months ago. He wants to help St. George look to the future and said that his background as a school administrator – from a public school teacher, to principal, to a university instructor – would help accomplish that. Also involved in real estate, he wants to see healthy, controlled growth for the area.
One of his primary concerns involves St. George’s future water needs and stated he is in favor of the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.
Michelle Randall: Randall favors more transparency and said she wants to make sure all sides of an issue are known before the council votes on it. She cited her experience involving the state-run process that led to the closure of Dixie Ambulance, the company her family ran for 14 years, and said, “The transparency wasn’t there that should have been.”
She said she would do her homework on the issues put before the council and make sure all sides were adequately addressed and the public better informed.
“We’re accountable to the people,” she said.
Greg Whitehead: Whitehead said he is honest and approachable, joking that those were traits that do more harm than good to politicians. He stated he is in favor of reviewing city codes and gutting what isn’t needed. He said he believes in small, effective government and personal responsibility.
Like Christiansen, Whitehead also wants to see more diversity in the local economy, particularly in the field of technology. Utah is already drawing high tech companies away from California, he said, so why not get them to settle in St. George?
Overwhelming support for St. George Musical Theater
The future of St. George Musical Theater was brought up by a forum member who asked the council if they supported finally finding the theater group a venue.
The majority of the candidates voiced their support for SGMT and those who attended the St. George City Council’s June 13 work meeting shared that the city and theater group were currently in discussions for the possible future use of the St. George Opera House.
A candidate endorsed
Forum members were able to cast their votes for which candidate their group would endorse. Larry Meyers, president of the Dixie Republican Forum, said forum rules required a two-thirds majority vote to secure the endorsement – which one of the candidates managed to receive.
The endorsement went to Greg Aldred.
Following the luncheon, Aldred told St. George News he “appreciates all who believe in him and supported him and he won’t let them down.”
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St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this story.
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