Santa Clara City Council candidates talk historic district, South Hills, future

Santa Clara City Council Candidates top L-R: Wendell Gubler and Ben Shakespeare; bottom L-R: Kenneth Sizemore and Christopher Barela, locations and dates not specified | Photos courtesy of Wendell Gubler, Ben Shakespeare, Kenneth Sizemore and Christopher Barela, St. George News

SANTA CLARA — With municipal elections moving ever closer, four candidates will have their name on the ballot for Santa Clara City Council – Christopher Barela, Wendell Gubler, Ben Shakespeare and incumbent Kenneth Sizemore.

St. George News reached out to each candidate to give them an opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about what they believe are the biggest issues facing their community.

As a large portion of growth in Santa Clara moves toward the highly contested South Hills, candidates discussed the need to preserve the history and charm of Santa Clara while finding opportunities for economic growth to bolster the city’s revenue.

Meet the candidates (in alphabetical order)

Christopher Barela

Barela moved to Southern Utah in 2002 and Santa Clara in 2008 with his wife and children. Prior to moving to the community, Barela served as a volunteer fireman for the Santa Clara Fire Department beginning in 2006. That service continues today. Barela also served as animal control officer for eight years, he said.

“During the time that I have worked with the community and lived here, I have developed a deep love and admiration for everything that is Santa Clara. Our wonderful community has a way of pulling together during disasters,” Barela said. “Each member of our community comes from a different background. Some were born here and maintain deep roots to the city, while others have moved in over time. There is a special feeling when it comes to our city.”

Wendell Gubler

Gubler is a Santa Clara native and long-time resident. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in accounting, served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army and later returned to Santa Clara to raise his family. From 1984-87 Gubler volunteered on the Santa Clara Planning and Zoning Commission and served as chairman his third year.

As an active member of the community, Gubler also coached baseball and softball in the Snow Canyon Little League. He was Scout Master for three years and served as a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a counselor in the Santa Clara Stake Presidency. Gubler continued his education in 1994 receiving his Masters of Accountancy from Southern Utah University and his CPA license.

During his 16 years on the Washington County School Board (1996-2012), Gubler collaborated and strategically planned the district’s expansion from 10,000 to 25,000 students. He helped make decisions that resulted in the building of more than two dozen new schools, restoration of Dixie High School and bringing new academic programs such as the Success Academy and dual immersion.

He and his wife Linda have nine children and 32 grandchildren. Four of their children are raising their families in Santa Clara.

Ben Shakespeare

Shakespeare was born and raised in Southern Utah. He is the third of nine children. After graduating from Dixie High School, he served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Caracas Venezuela, then continued his education at Dixie College.

Shakespeare has spent the last 22 years working with his father and brother in Tom’s Mechanical – a commercial plumbing and mechanical company – and is a partner with his brother. He is also the owner of Shakespeare Development Group, a construction company that builds custom homes and commercial facilities throughout Southern Utah.

Shakespeare is active in the community and enjoys serving throughout. He has served on the Kite Festival board and on the Snow Canyon Little League board for 12 years and is currently the league president.

Shakespeare has a great love for Southern Utah. He enjoys all that this great area has to offer and will continue to offer future generations. Shakespeare is married to Tawni Tuttle, of Santa Clara, together they have four children.

Kenneth Sizemore

Sizemore is running for reelection to the Santa Clara City Council. He has lived in Santa Clara for 31 years, and raised eight children there.

Sizemore is the executive director of the Dixie Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, a local nonprofit organization that partners with public agencies to assist in providing information about the region. The association’s latest partnership is with St. George city to operate a visitor information center and gift shop at the Historic Pioneer Courthouse.

He retired from a career of public service with the Five County Association of Governments in 2013. While there, he served as deputy director for 20 years and executive director for seven years. Sizemore also retired from the Utah Army National Guard as a first sergeant after 21 years in military intelligence, including a combat tour of duty in Iraq.

Sizemore earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at Utah State University and a Master of Public Administration from Southern Utah University.

He and his wife Barbara are now enjoying their 15 grandchildren.

On issues facing the community 


Just because there is something that seems good for the city, may not mean that it is good for the community. There will be things that need to be considered on behalf of the city in order for the city to function and grow in a healthy and positive manner. Sometimes both parties will need to meet in the middle. We can’t let stubborn attitudes and hot heads draw such a line in the sand that we aren’t willing to listen, and truly discuss all options. Sometimes the best option may not have been thought of right up front.

I also believe that we need to focus on the youth in our community. There isn’t a great deal for them to do. We need to work on finding solutions for the members of our community who will become our next generation. We need to focus on providing options and opportunities for them.


I know that the City Council is concerned about revenue to run our city but as an accountant I know that there are two sides to the ledger, the revenue side and the expense side. I think we should also look at the expense side.


There are several issues that are front and center for the city. I believe most are due to the current growth we are seeing in the area.

Growth brings traffic, water issues and crime, all of which must be dealt with. It is also the lifeblood of our community. It provides employment for most in some way or another, adds services to our medical facilities, which has quickly become first class, and increased the ability to receive an education as the college offers more opportunities through its degrees.

The solution is in planning, and as a community understanding that with growth there will be change.


The most important issue facing Santa Clara is how to accommodate housing types that reflect 21st century realities. Just as the Santa Clara of 1890 was very different than the Santa Clara of 1960, and the Santa Clara of 1960 was far different than the Santa Clara of 2000, the city council must grapple with the balance of preserving our unique character while recognizing that new types of housing are being demanded by the market. We cannot be trapped into accepting too much of any particular housing product. Diversity of housing choice is vital.

Read more 2017 municipal election stories

On growth, the South Hills, the past and the future


I understand that every city has a “master plan” and that growth is always happening. Growth is needed in order to continue running our wonderful city. There is good growth and there is bad growth.

My vision has three key points:

  1. Preservation
  2. Growth
  3. Consideration

You can preserve the past, and look toward the future, but it must be done in consideration. One must be willing to listen to the community. Listening means you are actively seeking to understand their position, giving their voice power. Sometimes the community needs to educate their leaders, and sometimes the leaders need to work on educating the community.


I have concerns about the South Hills growth. I believe that the property values of the existing homes in the South Hills area will depreciate because of the planned vacation rentals. The number of vehicles on Santa Clara Drive will increase dramatically to what is an already congested area, making a bad problem worse. There needs to be another major arterial road to move the traffic from the South Hills away from Santa Clara Drive. But the Western Corridor is likely another 20 years out. The historic district is the heart of our city and having a significant increase in traffic now will change the small-town feel that residents currently enjoy.

Not all growth is good. We need to have controlled growth using the city’s master plan as a guide. We need to make sure we have the infrastructure – water, power and roads to sustain the growth.


The South Hills has been an important recreation and open space for the city. It is planned to have future development and growth, which is vital to the economic stability of any city. The South Hills needs to be developed in a responsible way, maintaining recreational areas, access, and protecting sensitive areas. Development can be managed to allow for the present uses; provide different housing options, blend with surrounding areas and character of Santa Clara, and meet the guidelines of the general plan adopted by the city.

As I said before, there are negative things that come with growth; traffic, crime and the need for water are those that are usually the first to come up. So yes, not all growth is good, but growth is necessary to sustain a healthy economy and lifestyle for everyone.

I absolutely think we can and will maintain what is great about Santa Clara with the growth. We keep the historic downtown, the tree-lined streets, Swiss days and the people, while providing the economic opportunities for our future generations.


South Hills development has been anticipated for decades. Actually making such development a reality brings extreme challenges due to land ownership, terrain constraints, cost of extending needed utilities and access constraints. These concerns are all cited in the city general plan. Any property development must be phased to allow needed road systems, utilities and other improvements to be provided in a way that the developer bears the costs without unduly impacting the city as a whole.

Santa Clara will continue to attract those looking for the many qualities that make our community a wonderful place. However, geography will eventually lead us to build out, probably in a relatively short time. Our challenge in the coming decade will be to work toward a budget that does not rely so heavily on growth.

The charm of Santa Clara can be enhanced with careful oversight and partnerships with land owners and citizens.

On why they want to serve and what they want voters to know


I plan to utilize one or two days a month to get out and meet with community members. Whether that be meeting somewhere in our city, planning a special event, taking phone calls, going on Facebook Live, whatever the case may be, I want to work for you. I need to know your issues and concerns. I want to hear you.

Many times votes from those sitting on local governments do not reflect the views of their voters. I am here to serve my community. I, like my fellow community members, may have differing views, but if there is an overwhelming level of support for or against a particular issue, I believe it is my duty to go with the views of my fellow community members. I would seek to educate those whom I served, but if their position remained unchanged, it would fall to me to support them. I serve them, not myself.

We need to remember and honor our past. We need to focus on our future. We need to consider everyone and all of our options. Sometimes that means that certain issues will take time to decide, to actively learn and become educated on. Most issues and agenda items are not immediate life-and-death choices that have to be decided at once. I am ready to listen to you. I am ready to work with you. I am ready to be the shoulder and to be the voice. I am ready to learn, and I am ready to teach. Let’s work together toward a future and a community that we can all be proud of. I am ready to serve.


I want to protect and preserve the sanctity of the Santa Clara Historical district and promote better communications between the City Council and community residents.  I would like to see the master plan followed. I am concerned about the high power and water rates and would like to work to find a way to lower these rates.

I love Santa Clara. I spent my childhood in Santa Clara and have lived here for 58 of my 73 years. I have time to devote to help solving these issues. I want to make a difference and give back.


I have a great love for Santa Clara, and believe I can offer a good voice for the community in many issues. My experience as a business owner, and the opportunities I have had to serve in other organizations will help me in this.

I also believe in being positive and happy in everything we choose to do. Understanding that we, as a community, each have differing opinions of how things should go, and being respectful and understanding to each of those views.

I look forward to my opportunity in this council race. I look forward to the future of Santa Clara and the opportunities to its residents.

I love this town, its people and the opportunity my family has had to be a part of this great place.


In a second (and final) term, I would work to:

  • Resolve the difficult issue of improvements to Vineyard Drive
  • Encourage the expansion of transit service into Santa Clara
  • Preserve the unique character of the historic downtown
  • Continue our efforts to build a reserve of funds that will cushion the effects of an inevitable economic downturn.

My interest in public service is demonstrated by my professional and military careers. I ran for City Council because city government is where you can see the results.  It is where the rubber literally meets the road.

I bring professional expertise, extensive experience and dedication to my service. I do not have to abstain from votes. My sole purpose is serving the community I treasure. I sincerely thank the residents of our great community for the opportunity to serve for a final term.

Mayoral race

Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg is running unopposed.


Early voting for the Nov. 7 municipal election will take place at Santa Clara City Hall , 2603 Santa Clara Drive, in the administration office on the following dates and times:

  • Oct. 24-27 | Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to noon.
  • Oct. 31-Nov. 3 | Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 1-5 p.m.

Anyone who is a registered voter in Washington County on or before Oct. 21 and is a Santa Clara resident is eligible for early voting. The regular election will take place Nov. 7.

For voting information visit the city of Santa Clara website.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Kilroywashere October 2, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    God help us all. Except for the mayor, who is running unopposed. I am disappointed. Same old, same old. Please candidates and current council members running for reelection, put on your thinking caps and try again. Seriously. Good luck. Ps. Hey local SC WOMEN, time to get into local politics. We need more diversity in our local government. Please buck up next time.

  • Redbud October 3, 2017 at 1:56 am

    Kilroy, don’t you know how this really works? I actually don’t know ANY of the candidates, I only know what I’ve read in this article. Let’s get down to the knitty-gritty: TWO of the candidates did not mention much about church service, so they are both automatically struck out. That means two are left. They each served a mission, they each score 1 point. Now the score is tied. BUT, only one of those was a former bishop, served in the stake presidency, graduated from BYU, and his wife popped out 9 babies, who also multiplied into LOTS of grandchildren. The good ole’ boys also tend to vote for the older guys who are natives. That leaves Mr. Gubler with 3 extra points, and a bonus point (or 2). So therefore, he’s already won!

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