WASHINGTON CITY – Whatever the topic or the issue, questions addressed to political candidates generally share a common theme – the future. For the three candidates in Washington’s mayoral race it is much the same as they address challenges associated with continued growth and growing a larger commercial base. They also shared what they hope to have accomplished by the end of their first, and in one case, second term as mayor if voted in.
“We are anticipating steady growth,” incumbent candidate Mayor Ken Neilson said. Like St. George, Washington is also experiencing a resurgence in building as new phases of subdivisions are approved and building permits are granted.
However, with that growth come concerns about infrastructure and how to pay for it. While Washington sales taxes are up over the previous year, they could be better, city officials have said. As well, many public services, including public safety, are funded by sales tax revenues.
Water has long since been a concern for residents in Washington County in general; but the candidates have weighed in on the matter for their city specifically.
“Water is a big issue,” mayoral candidate Sherrie Lou Reeder said. It’s a a “double-edged sword,” she said.
Concerning the pipeline, Reeder said she needs to study the subject a bit more before reaching a solid conclusion. However, for the time being she is not overly positive about it. “We’re either in or we’re out,” she said.
“Without water we don’t have life,” Washington City councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Truman said. Truman, who ran for mayor four years ago, said the prudent thing to do for now is to continue to practice wise water conservation. On the Lake Lake Powell Pipeline, Truman said it was “a big question” and that “the cost seems exorbitant.”
The estimated cost of the Lake Powell Pipeline is around $1 billion. Opponents of the pipeline have said the actual cost will be twice as much.
Neilson said water conservation “starts with you and me” and he is in support of the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s efforts to conserve and supply water and is in favor of the proposed pipeline. “It’s an important link in our look to the future,” he said.
While people need to remember they live in a desert, Neilson said, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t maintain some greenery. The city has asked residents not to water their lawns between 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m., as a great deal of water evaporates due to the heat during that time span, he said.
Growing a commercial base
Attracting more business to the city is a topic all the candidates agree on.
Truman said Washington needs to be seen as “a city of choice” in the eyes of potential businesses. “We need to show our location is better than St. George, Santa Clara, et cetera,” he said, and mentioned special tax incentives and zones that could be created to bring in those businesses.
Neilson said that many new businesses, large and small, have sprung up in Washington, and he would like to see it continue. He said a prime area for business development is on Washington Parkway just off Interstate 15’s Exit 13. “We just need to pull the trigger on that one,” he said.
Truman also wants to see business grow by Exit 13, though he said the city will need to work with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to do so, as SITLA owns a bit of the land in that area. Both Truman and Neilson want the city to prepare for business development along the Southern Park Way.
“Washington has a lot to offer,” Reeder said. The city has plans on paper for bringing in new business, she said, but she wants to focus on application.“Right now we have no one lobbying for us,” she said. The city needs to be on the map for attracting businesses, she added.
Reeder said one of the things that could help put the city on the map is a proposed nature conservatory to be built around the Boilers spring called the The Boiling Springs Ecoseum & Desert Preserve.
“Its an awesome idea and it could benefit the community,” Reeder said. “It could put us on the map as a destination point.”
Amid the issues dealing with the city’s continued and future growth, St. George News also asked the candidates what they hoped to have accomplished and possibly be remembered for after their term as mayor.
“I want more of a business base,” Neilson said.
Continued upkeep and renewal of Washington’s downtown area and historic area is also among Neilson’s goals that he said he wants to advance during a second term, particularly the area where the unfinished Telegraph Towers building used to stand.
Reeder said she wants the city to be more unified as a result of her having been mayor, and that the people of Washington came to feel that their voice made a difference in city direction and politics.
An area where Reeder said the city and the people need to come together is concerning the future of Washington Fields. Some people in the area want the area to remain agriculturally-based, while some property owners want to develop. There needs to be “a consensus on the ‘Fields,’” she said.
Like Neilson, Reeder also wants to have built up the city’s commercial base and sales tax revenues by the end of her term.
“I want people to say Washington City is better because of my having been mayor,” Truman said.
Along with having grown Washington as a city of choice for business, Truman said he also wants to have spurred a sense of unity between city residents and city government, with the city itself being a servant of the people, and not perceived as an overreaching taskmaster.
The election primaries will be held on Aug. 8.
- Ken Neilson – Washington City Council page
- Sheerie Lou Reeder for Washington City Mayor
- Ron Truman – Washington City Council page
- Washington City Candidate video interviews – William Way’s Political Blog
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