ST. GEORGE – Before Jon Pike assumes the mayor’s office in January 2014, he will first have to step down from his seat on the City Council, however there are still two years remaining on his term. Rather than holding a runoff election, the City Council will appoint somebody to fill Pike’s seat for the remainder of the term. While the city won’t begin interviewing applicants until January, former candidates Ed Baca and Tara Dunn have announced their intentions to apply for Pike’s vacated seat on the council.
The open seat cannot be officially posted until the seat has been vacated, so the entire process won’t get underway until after Pike is sworn in as mayor. As mayor, Pike said that he will not play a role in the selection process.
“I don’t get a vote, period,” Pike said. “There are many cases where the mayor votes in case of a tie. This is not one of them.”
If there is a tie among the four council members, Pike said that the council would have to vote again, as many times as it takes until a selection has been made.
Ed Baca and Tara Dunn, the two runners-up in the race for St. George City Council have both announced that they will be applying for the open seat. Baca and Dunn nearly tied for third place, trailing winning candidate Joe Bowcutt by a near 1.2-percent margin (the other winner, Michele Randall, won handily).
Doug Bullock, a local barista, said he voted in the St. George Municipal election, but he didn’t vote for Randall or Bowcutt because he wanted to see somebody on the council who represents a different viewpoint.
“I’m just a little scared that it will go to somebody who knows somebody,” Bullock said. “It might be something like, ‘they’re from my community, or they’re from my ward’,” he said. “I just think it should go to the one who was in third place, and I thought that’s what they were going to do.”
Tara Dunn, who came in third place, said that she doesn’t necessarily think the council should select her over Baca, given that the votes were so close. However, she said, it would be a mistake for the council to choose somebody from their own circle rather than looking for somebody who can represent the growing diversity of the community.
“I think the makeup and amount of diversity – or lack thereof – speaks a great deal as to whether or not you will tend to have the citizens of St. George represented in a meaningful way,” Dunn said.
Ed Baca also said that he’d like to see either himself or Dunn appointed to the vacant seat. He said that the council shouldn’t shy away from new perspectives. “They should welcome our viewpoints and the positions of the people who voted for us,” he said.
For years he has advocated that the council establish a human relations board to better facilitate communication between residents and city officials, Baca said, an idea that Pike adopted in his own platform during the campaign.
Over the last year, Baca said, the city has faced several problems that might have been solved long ago had city officials known about them sooner. Baca pointed to how the council said that they weren’t aware of problems at the St. George Animal Shelter, or that many residents were unhappy about certain code enforcement practices. The council, he said, tends to assume that if nobody is bringing problems to their attention then everyone must be happy.
“Everything is fine and rosy with them,” Baca said, “and for the most part it is, but if it’s completely true, why do we have the issues we have?”
Councilman Jimmie Hughes said he thinks the council does represent diversity. “I think so, because there will probably only be one person on the council who was born and raised in Southern Utah, and that’s me,” he said.
He doesn’t believe that it’s wise to appoint somebody to the council just to fill a quota, Hughes said.
“When we talk about diversity,” he said, “I’d hate to see this thing where we have to have one person who is a woman, for example, or we have to have a person who is Hispanic, or we have to have a person who’s of these different groups. I hate doing that.”
It’s wrong to assume that the council can only represent the viewpoints of people who belong to the same ethnicity, social class, or church as they do, Hughes said, and that we are all here for each other, and we’re all out for the same team.
Although he won’t get to vote on the issue, Pike said that he would like to see more of the diversity in St. George represented on the council; however, he said he doesn’t think that means the council should necessarily appoint one of the candidates.
“But I do think it’s valuable to have women on the council,” Pike said. “I think it will be nice if we have other female candidates who apply for this.”
If anything, Pike said, he hopes the council looks for diversity of ideas, experiences, and perspectives.
“It’s not just a case of ‘we’re going to try and find someone who is going to vote like us, or think like us, or go to church like us,’” he said. “I hope the council will not consider that.”
He hopes the council looks for somebody who has different strengths than what the current members offer, Pike said, such as someone who has managerial experience, or previous government experience, “people who are readers, who are workers, researchers, and skilled in compromise and negotiation,” he said, “because that’s what this is about.”
“I think there is definitely something to be said for really taking into account that we just went through and election and to consider the will of the people,” Pike said. “Both Ed and Tara would do a great job, but keep in mind that this is a state-defined process and we need to stick with. We want to pick the very best person. We get to do this very rarely.”
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