Public bids farewell to St. George mayor, outgoing council members

The St. George City Council 2009-2013: (Left to Right) Jimmie Hughes, Ben Nickle, Gail Bunker, Mayor Dan McArthur, Gil Almquist, Jon Pike, St, George, Utah, Jan. 2, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Hundreds bid farewell to long-serving St. George Mayor Dan McArthur Thursday at the Dixie Center St. George. Earlier in the day the mayor was honored by the city and had a portion of the Town Square Park named after him, while outgoing members of the City Council were also recognized.

Dan McArthur lost his bid for re-election in November 2013 to Mayor-elect Jon Pike who will be sworn into office on Jan. 6.

Council Members Gail Bunker and Ben Nickle chose not to run for re-election in November, making way for Council Members-elect Michele Randall and Joe Bowcutt who also will be sworn in Jan. 6.

Outgoing council members

Friends, city officials and family were gathered at City Hall for a short City Council meeting Thursday, during which Bunker and Nickle were honored.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Bunker said of her decade on the council. Though she was recognized as a primary force for the arts and the St. George Children’s Museum, she counted little things she had been able to do for the people of St. George as being among her greatest accomplishments while in office.

Every personality I’ve met at City Hall has been fantastic,” Nickle said, adding that his time on the council has taught him that, despite the different opinions people may have on certain issues, they actually have more in common than they may originally anticipate.

“We are going to miss you, Gail and Ben,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said.

Each council member also took a moment to thank Dan McArthur for his long record of service to the city.

Plaque presented to Mayor Dan McArthur, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Plaque presented to Mayor Dan McArthur, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Surprise at Town Square

The City Council, city staff and many members of the McArthur family left City Hall for the Town Square Park where a surprise waited for the outgoing mayor. He had been told a series of photos were to be taken, but not that a part of the Town Square – something he has had a major hand in creating – was being named after him.

On behalf of the City of St. George, Bunker presented McArthur with a plaque that was a preview of a much larger one to be set at the foot of the flagpole in the middle of the parade grounds, officially naming the area the “Daniel D. McArthur Historic Parade Grounds at Town Square.”

“This is a real honor,” McArthur said, yet was quick to give credit to others as well. “None of this would have been possible if not for (City Manager) Gary Esplin and the city staff.”

Mayor’s night

Hundreds gathered at the Dixie Center were the city hosted a farewell for the mayor. A long line of people formed to shake the mayor’s hand and give their regards. Among those attending the farewell were current and former members of city staff and government, as well as county officials and state legislators.

People stood in a long line to greet Mayor McArthur and give him their regards for his service, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
People stood in a long line to greet Mayor McArthur and give him their regards for his service, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Set around the room where photos and various items celebrating and highlighting the mayor’s 30 years of public service to the city and the area. Before becoming the mayor, Dan McArthur served for 10 years on the city council.

“This is a tribute evening to him,” Bunker said after taking the stand. “We are here to thank the mayor and show the gratitude we all share.”

A video presentation honoring the mayor was shown in which family, city and county officials past and present shared their thoughts and memories of McArthur.

“He’s not a politician,” one of those interviewed said, “he’s a statesman.”

Others spoke to Dan McArthur’s integrity and humility, and said that no matter what, he always had a song, a poem, or a story up his sleeve. Described as being genuine and authentic, he was said to never portray himself as anything more than the man he was. He was also called a prime example of the “Dixie spirit,” which was described as a great sense of volunteerism and community.

To me he is everything Dixie,” Hughes said following the presentation.

Mayor-elect Pike presented Dan McArthur with a bronze statue of a young man carrying a sandbag. He said it depicted one of hundreds of people who came together to sandbag homes along the Virgin River during the 2005 floods. Pike, who was not a member of the City Council at the time, recalled seeing Dan McArthur and other city officials visiting various spots along the river to make sure the people there had everything they needed to fight the flooding – and if they didn’t, the mayor made sure they did.

“We had a clear depiction of the Dixie spirit,” Pike said.

Mayor Dan McArthur and Bunny McArthur, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Mayor Dan McArthur and Bunny McArthur, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2., 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

City Manager Gary Esplin and the city staff also honored the mayor.

“This night wouldn’t be fitting without a poem,” Esplin said, and read “The Bridge Builder.” He said Dan McArthur had built a bridge on which future generations could follow.

In response, Dan McArthur stood up and pointed to the city staff who were gathered on the stand. “These are the builders,” he said.

Esplin told the mayor to stop giving the credit away to everybody else. “This is your night,” he said.

Dan McArthur addressed the gathering next with his wife, Bunny McArthur, at his side. “I couldn’t have done this without my family. The person I owe the most to … is my dear wife, Bunny.”

True to form, Dan McArthur ended his words by singing “Are You From Dixie?

“… If you’re from Santa Clara, Washington or St. George, fine, anywhere below the Iron County line,” he sang, “then you’re from Dixie. Hooray for Dixie, ’cause I’m from Dixie too.”

All gathered gave Dan McArthur, the man who has been at the city’s helm for two decades, a standing ovation.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

The St. George City Council 2007-2013: (Left to Right) Jimmie Hughes, Ben Nickle, Gail Bunker, Mayor Dan McArthur, Gil Almquist, Jon Pike
The St. George City Council 2007-2013: (Left to Right) Jimmie Hughes, Ben Nickle, Gail Bunker, Mayor Dan McArthur, Gil Almquist, Jon Pike, St, George, Utah, Jan. 2, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

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9 Comments

  • Illness January 3, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I think I want to go throw up now.

  • Davis January 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I agree, be glad to have the good ol boys gone. Would be great if pike is able to make the city manager an elected position as well. About time Mcarthur, Esplin, and others who rub shoulders with them move on. It’s amazing the amount of waste and back door benefits relatives and associates recieved from the current leadership. From palm tree farms, to purchasing the old electric theatre (that cost a million and has to be torn down) wonder why it wasn’t appraised before the purchase and which relative benefited from it.

  • DoubleTap January 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    If Mayor-elect John Pike REALLY wants to do what is right for the city….he should ask for Gary Esplins resignation effective Jan. 7, 2014.

  • Barf! January 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Now spend time cleaning up those city code violations at the metal recycling place. Maybe volunteer time at the St George animal shelter.

  • Nanook of the North January 3, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I’m going to miss the good old boys. All I’ve ever heard is vague innuendo about back room deals, and the wielding of power and influence. If that doesn’t amount to any more than some common sense decisions being made based on long standing personal relationships, then I’m sorry, but I would have to have a lot more evidence before I would condemn the people (elected AND unelected) that have been at the helm of this great city the last couple decades. Make a credible accusation about what exactly happened in the smoke filled room, who was involved, who benefited and how, and how you know. Otherwise it sounds like you moved to St. George and are frustrated you don’t have the same money, influence or reputation as someone who’s family has been here, worked here and owned land here since long before your Grandparents were born.

    • Davis January 4, 2014 at 1:59 am

      The electric theatre is public knowledge they spent a million on it and now it has to be torn down. I’m sorry an organization with leadership who can waste tax payer money like that is do to extreme negligence for not having it inspected and appraised validating a million dollar investment or some one has benefitted from it. Take your pick either the city is full of incompetent leadership or ulterior motives.

      • Human Waste January 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm

        What a line-up of human waste. They should have been flushed long ago. They had no problem wasting taxpayer money for their personal agenda. As you said, a million dollars for the electric theater with no clear vision on its future? The city most likely bought it to keep another music venue from moving in. Macdoodle and his cronies just don’t want music and dance venues for young adults.

        • Cityshakedown January 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm

          It’s one thing to not have a clear vision but they bought it to probably do as you said but they didn’t even have it inspected before purchasing. If they had they would have known it was condemned and would need to be torn down. It’s just a blatant waste of money someone associated with Esplin, Mcarthur, or Mortenensen, must have benefitted or they really can claim incompetence either way it’s ridiculous.

  • Head January 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Which one has the biggest meat head?

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