ST. GEORGE – While Washington City will retain its mayor, it may be getting two new council members.
Incumbent Ken Neilson will return next year for a third term as Washington City’s mayor, having garnered 1,287 votes to challenger Ben L. Martinsen’s 1,017. Newcomers Daniel Cluff and Doug Ward finished the City Council races ahead of incumbents Kurt F. Ivie and Garth E. Nisson, albeit by a skinny margin.
Initial, unofficial vote counts from mail-in ballots had the candidates running head-to-head, then separate oh-so-slightly as the evening continued. For now, Cluff and Ward lead with 1,177 and 1,101 votes to Ivie and Nisson’s 1,044 and 1,029 votes.
These numbers are subject to change as absentee ballots are counted, though whether it’ll be enough to upset the race has yet to be seen. For the moment, Washington City appears to have two new City Council members.
An issue that was at the forefront for some Washington City voters, particularly those in the downtown area, was that of a potential freeway interchange off Interstate 15 that would exit into the heart of the downtown. This possibility didn’t sit well with many downtown residents. It’s also been a recurring topic during City Council meetings and subsequent candidate forums.
Currently, there is an environmental assessment study being done to gauge the transportation needs of the area. Road planners have said an interchange could just be one of many options or none of them. However, the study continues and the question over what could happen remains wide open and contested.
While none of the candidates appear to like the idea of an interchange in the downtown, Cluff and Ward were the first among the candidates to offer heavy opposition. Ward said he believes this issue played a “major factor” in the night’s election results.
“There were a lot of people that, for them, this was a very important election,” Ward said.
Provided the vote totals don’t turn against him as they are finalized, Ward said he’ll work to give the residents of Washington City the “vigorous representation” on the council they deserve.
Part of Ward’s message during the campaign was that he didn’t feel the current council was giving enough of an ear to the residents and their concerns.
Cluff has expressed similar views and vowed he’ll listen to the residents and do his best to represent them, yet acknowledged he also has a lot to learn.
“I feel there is a whole lot I don’t know, but I will make sure to be connected with the people that voted me in,” he said. “I want to respect them and serve them well.”
As for the tightness of the race, Cluff said that was due to the “great love” there was for each candidate involved and said he is grateful to those who voted for him.
Neilson is looking forward to continuing the promotion of economic development within the city, particularly around the area of Washington Parkway.
“I’m really honored to have this opportunity,” Neilson said. “I’m glad the people trust me enough to be able to continue.”
New development around Washington Parkway/Exit 13 has been announced in recent weeks, and includes an incoming Black Bear Diner and Best Western hotel.
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