ST. GEORGE — Eleven city employees in Hildale have resigned, including one who wrote that his religious beliefs prohibit him from “following a woman, and from serving on a board with apostates,” said Mayor Donia Jessop, one of four nonmembers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints elected to office last November.
Hildale shares employees with Colorado City, Arizona, and Jessop estimates there are about 50 between the two, although the majority are in Colorado City.
She added that each of the employees who resigned provided the city with at least two weeks’ notice and offered to help with the training of new employees during the transition, regardless of whether that goes beyond the two weeks.
The mayor said she asked each of them to stay, but understands their position.
“It’s easier to cope with this because it’s not personal, they are just following what they believe,” she said.
The November 2017 election marked the first time in the town’s 100-year history than any nonmember of the FLDS church was elected to office.
Jessop, along with City Council members Maha Layton, Jared Nichols and Jvar Dutson, were sworn in last month.
There has been no interruption in city services, the mayor said, which she attributed to the “graciousness of the employees who are already gone, but who made sure we had systems in place and someone to run them before they left, which they didn’t have to do.”
Jessop said city officials are undaunted and are committed to moving forward as a community to continue to work on the new water system being put in place and seek grants to improve Hildale’s infrastructure.
“We have to keep moving forward,” she said.
Roger Carter, city manager of Washington City, who was appointed in 2016 by the court to monitor operations in Hildale and Colorado City, is working with Jessop and her staff to assist with the changeover.
“He has been a huge help and support,” she said.
Carter’s appointment was in response to a jury verdict that individuals who did not belong to the FLDS church were denied police protection, building permits and water hookups on the basis of religion, prompting the court to place the town under court supervision for 10 years.
Jessop said her office has received calls from city officials throughout Washington County offering support and assistance if needed.
“I am just amazed at the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from these communities,” Jessop said. “They have called my office to make sure we had what we need and even said they will come out and help get services restored if something happens.”
She said City Council members are working closely as a team to resolve the staffing shortfalls, and with the number of qualified applicants, those positions should be filled soon.
“I still see amazing growth for Hildale and we are moving forward with a clear vision of what we are working toward,” Jessop said.
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