ST. GEORGE — Council member Michele Randall was sworn in as mayor of St. George at the City Council meeting on Thursday.
“So, now that I’m mayor, I can say what I want,” Randall joked as the meeting began. She then quickly pivoted from humor to give release to heavier feelings that had been gathering for days.
“All my family’s here but Tony,” Randall continued, referring to her husband who suffered a heart attack the previous Saturday. Though he had become ill while Randall was in the midst of running for mayor, she said, her husband didn’t waver in his support for her.
“He said, ‘Whatever happens, don’t withdraw your name,'” Randall said. “I’m glad I didn’t have to. Now there’s a woman on that wall out there.”
The wall Randall referred to is, of course, the wall where portraits of St. George’s mayors hang in neat rows. Until Randall was elected, there hadn’t been a single woman on that wall.
That’s how Randall’s term as mayor began: With the ritual of swearing in a new mayor, the addition to city hall the first portrait of a woman and the mixed emotions that come with change.
And, of course, plans for the future.
“Governor Cox said something important in his State of the State address,” Randall told St. George News on Monday. “He said: ‘I wish people would get off Facebook and meet their neighbors.’ I think that’s where we should begin.”
Though it sounds simple, Randall said there’s a meanness in public that wasn’t always there. It’s creating obstacles that can prevent people from working together, let alone sharing a simple conversation.
“I wish we could go back to being kind,” Randall said. “It’s very important to me that St. George maintains that small-town feel, even as we grow. People come here for a reason.”
Randall said she’s a proven leader, with a record of serving the people and the city to protect those values.
“I’m a leader and a listener,” Randall said. “I’ll sit and listen to anybody. And I’ll try to come up with solutions. We may not always agree on those solutions, but that’s beyond my control.”
What is within Randall’s control, she said, is her votes. As a council member for seven years, she cast her votes on any number of decisions facing the council. While there’s no single vote that’s more important than the rest, she said she’s happy to have made some.
“I voted for the city to hire City Manager Adam Lenhard,” Randall said. “In 40 years, no member of the council had to ponder that decision. He’s done amazing work for this community.”
Randall is also happy to have helped secure an annual $25,000 for the Doctor’s Volunteer Clinic of St. George to serve people who become suicidal.
“Five years ago, my brother committed suicide,” Randall said. “With that grant, the Doctor’s Volunteer Clinic hired more staff, including a nurse practitioner. Today, they can help anybody who comes in off the street.”
She’s also sat down with residents, such as one who lives off Sunset, who complained when a business’s lights beamed through homes’ windows. Now, Randall said she’s inundated with concerns about facemasks.
“I get messages from both sides,” she said. “Some people want everybody to wear them; others don’t want anybody to wear them. But it’s the governor’s mandate, so we follow it.”
Yet, the discourse around some issues has become meaner, she said, which makes people less likely to listen to one another.
Along with listening better, Randall said she’s concerned with those challenges that have been on nearly everybody’s mind since St. George was settled in 1861: Growth, attainable housing, water and public safety.
“I want to provide a safe, clean, healthy place for my grandkids,” Randall said. “That starts with each of us who live here. We all play a part in that.”
As she tries to fulfill her mission as mayor, Randall finds solace in a sign that hangs in her home. It reads: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
That, she said, is her mantra.
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