St. George City Council considers 28 candidates for vacant seat

The council chambers, St. George, Utah, Nov. 19 2020. | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George City Council received 28 applications for the vacant city council seat that came available when Michele Randall was elected mayor in January.

Outgoing Mayor Jpn Pike and Interim Mayor-elect Michele Randall at Pike’s farewell event in St. George, Utah, Jan. 20 2021 | Photo by David Dudley

The council will hold a special meeting Monday to hear the candidates make their cases before electing one of them to join the council. Following are brief highlights of each of the candidates taken from their applications.

Gregory Aldred

General contractor Gregory Aldred emphasized honesty, integrity and respect as qualities required of a city official. In the past, he’s been president of Dixie Sunshiners, Red Rock Rotary and the Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve served this city with honor and dignity,” he said. “I’m asking for your vote so we can go forward in these challenging times.”

Jamie Bahlmann

Public relations director at Stephen Wade Auto Group, Jamie Bahlmann has also served on the Washington County School District Foundation Board and the Washington County School District Golf Committee. Inspired by Gov. Spencer Cox, Bahlmann said she is motivated to make a difference in the place she calls home.

Kelly Parker

A fee appraiser with over 16 years of experience, Kelly Parker said that he has leadership experience. As president of the Exchange Club, he helped to establish a perpetual fund to support community projects.

“My goal is to keep this a great place to live,” he said.

M. Rick Erickson

“More than anything else, I want St. George to remain a place where my children will want to live,” said Deputy Washington County Attorney M. Rick Erickson.

Erickson has worked in law since 2003 and emphasized as much in his letter of interest. After working as a public defender for Douglas D. Terry and Associates, Erickson served as St. George City prosecutor and assistant city attorney. He also worked as an adjunct instructor at Dixie State University from 2009 to 2019.

Frank Kuhn

Owner of Kuhn’s Heating and Air, Frank Kuhn is also the vice president of Bikers Against Child Abuse. If elected to the council, Kuhn said he would strive to provide services that focus on people and advance a thriving community.

“I believe that you cannot complain about the government if you are unwilling to be involved,” Kuhn said.

Monty Kennedy

An engineer and entrepreneur, Monty Kennedy started consulting firm MK Engineering in 1994. He served as senior engineer for The Spaceship Company in Mojave, California, from February 2016 to August 2017. Kennedy said he wants to help improve the city’s infrastructure.

“I’m interested in reducing traffic congestion,” Kennedy said, citing improvements to Bluff Street as a success.

Ron Woodbury

Ron Woodbury worked for Altura Credit Union for 25 years, during which time he held a variety of executive management positions. He led an information technology department with an annual budget of $4.5 million. He’s serving his second year as a member of the St. George Arts Commission and is the designated incoming chairperson.

Woodbury said his experience in corporate settings, consulting, foundations, commissions and nonprofits has prepared him to be a successful councilman.

Benjamin Willits

Benjamin Willits said that his 25 years of experience as a land use planner would serve the city of St. George well as it grows.

“I have worked with city staff, planning commissions, and city councils for many years,” he said. “With many valued relationships, I am confident in my ability to be an asset to the council.”

Willits’ application package included a few letters of recommendation, including from Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke.

Denae Bunnell

Denae Bunnell is assistant general manager at Wyndham Destinations. Bunnell said she wants to preserve St. George’s historic past while actively pursuing new ideas to ensure a brighter future.

“I want to bring creative, pragmatic, and collaborative solutions we need for St. George,” she said.

Natalie Brown

Owner of Bone Appetit in Washington City, Natalie Brown said her experience in business has prepared her to join the council.

“A city needs to be run as a successful business to be a successful city,” she said. “I believe in investing in our most important resources in order to keep our city safe, productive, and keep its core values.”

Taunya Bronson

Taunya Bronson is a substance abuse counselor at Lions Gate Recovery.

“I have sat on several boards, both for-profit and non-profit,” she said. “That has given me great opportunities to learn and lend wisdom.”

After raising her children in Southern Utah, Bronson said she hopes to continue to create an enriching environment for generations to come.

Gregory Brooks

As Gregory Brooks sees it, the city’s most pressing challenges are growth, traffic and future economic opportunities. An aviation safety inspector with the FAA, Brooks is also chair of the Dixie High School Community Council.

“I feel open communication, willingness to listen, and being accountable are all important qualities to be a good council member,” Brooks said.

Darin Orton

Business owner Darin Orton said that if he is elected, he would “help strengthen and solidify St. George’s historic traditions and customs; foster economic development with pro-business policies that will encourage preferred employers to invest in our community; encourage and allow prominent members of the community to participate and contribute to our success through meaningful service opportunities; and, where possible, get out of the way and let the talented city administrators and employees do the job they were hired to do.”

Austin Anderson

Austin Anderson owns and run AJ Construction and is a Utah Home Builders board member. Like many in St. George, Anderson is concerned with water, transportation and afford housing, among other things.

“For some reason, the construction industry has been underrepresented at the council and planning board meetings,” he said. “The city is better served with the input and guidance of this major industry. I can offer that.”

Brock Soper

Brock Soper, programmer analyst for Washington City, said that he advocates for small-government policies, economic growth, small businesses, education and helping the less fortunate through service.

“I have education, experience, knowledge, and a public service mindset,” he said. “All of these things are vital to a successful public official.”

Doug Solstad

Doug Solstad is a certified public accountant with 15 years of experience. He has also served on the Washington County Planning Commission as vice chair and commissioner.

“I learned to appreciate service while growing up in a military family, and I love to give back,” Solstad said. “I have demonstrated my feelings by actively participating in our community.”

Solstad ran for City Council in 2019 and said he intends to do so again later this year.

Alberto Squassabia

A civil engineer, Alberto Squassabia said that the “purpose of governance is to create an enabling environment for orderly growth.”

To that end, he said he hopes to find “community-based solutions to the promise that this city can offer its denizens.”

Wendy Stabler

For Wendy Stabler, engagement manager at Nomi Healthcare, serving St. George as a council member has been a long-time goal.

“If I should get appointed to city council,” Stabler said, “I will focus on community safety, developing new business opportunities, and supporting existing community businesses.”

Steven Jennings

President of JMI Property Services Inc. Steven Jennings said that the Dixie Spirit is a real and tangible part of the community.

“I am a small business owner who is heavily involved in the business community in St. George,” he said. “As a result, I understand the vital role that business plays in supporting and sustaining a community.”

Vardell Curtis

Vardell Curtis is the CEO and executive vice president of the Washington County Board of Realtors. He served on the board of directors for the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and as chairman of the Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center, and he was appointed as a trustee on their governing board.

“Perhaps my strongest qualification is also my most current service opportunity,” Curtis said. “Specifically, my time serving on the St. George Planning Commission. The practical experience that only comes from actually ‘doing the work’ has been invaluable.”

Suzanne Moore

Suzanne Moore was principal business banker at Wells Fargo in St. George for 11 years before taking a job at U.S. Bank, where she works as community banking business manager. She’s also found time to serve on the Washington County School District Foundation and St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“I believe in an inclusive, fair and equitable approach to leadership,” she said.

Chantel Markel

Chantel Markel, owner and broker at Markel Realty Group, said that building relationships is key. To do so, she said, one must actively listen, ask questions in order to truly understand the other’s needs and put biases on hold, among others.

“Being a business owner, and serving the community in leadership positions has prepared me to serve on the council,” she said.

Scott McNeal

Scott McNeal has been in construction since 1980. His application package included his resume, letter of interest and a letter entitled “Dear President Trump.”

“I am concerned that too many of my fellow countrymen and women are abandoning Conservative values, and I want to stand up for the values that I hold dear,” he said. “I believe that we all lose if good people sit by and just let things fall apart around them.”

Peter McMillan

Peter McMillan, a retired sailor, said he fell in love with St. George after marrying a local girl named Mary Jane Hammond.

“I would like to bring fresh ideas and solutions to the situations facing our future in the areas of education, housing and city budgeting,” he said.

Tara Hickman

Tara Hickman is a self-employed cosmetologist and the owner of Bakery Bagel Shop, which she said was the first bagel shop built in St. George. She said that she values family, tradition and small businesses.

“I’m interested in running for city council because I see the great potential of the city,” she said. “I want to maintain our lifestyle, but embrace our future.”

Natalie Larsen

Natalie Larsen is a member of the St. George City Planning Commission.

“As a native of Southern Utah, I have been active throughout my life in the community,” she said. “Service gives me the opportunity to honor those who served before me, to help people now, and hopefully leave a better future for those who follow.”

Susi Lafaele

You may have heard Susi Lafaele’s voice on KTIM 95.3 as co-host of “Island Fever.” Before working as county fair director for Washington County, Lafaele was the director of operations at the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I bring youth, energy and vitality to the council,” Lafaele said. “I bring a point of view that’s not abrasive but rather synergistic with the rest of the council. I hope to help create a synergy that includes everyone in the community.”

Tazia Taylor

Tazia Taylor is marketing and communications manager at Intermountain Healthcare, where she spearheaded the launch of the Precision Genomics brand. She’s also part of their Women in Leadership Boards.

“Being born and raised in Utah, I’m excited for the opportunity to help plan and manage growth, while welcoming diverse populations to St. George,” she said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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