While City Council members had strong opinions, new member ultimately appointed by coin toss

ST. GEORGE — Though the newest member of the St. George City Council, M. Rick Erickson, had won council member Gregg McArthur’s vote, Erickson still needed a little luck to secure Mayor Michele Randall’s vacated council seat.

M. Rick Erickson gives an impassioned speech to the City Council at City Hall in St. George, Utah, Feb. 8, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

After the first round of voting between the 28 total candidates, which was by ballot, there was still a split that needed to be resolved.

While Gregg McArthur voted for Erickson, who serves as Deputy Washington County Attorney, Jimmie Hughes voted for Natalie Larsen, a member of the St. George City Planning Commission.

Vardell Curtis, CEO and executive vice president of the Washington County Board of Realtors, earned votes from Dannielle Larkin and Bryan Smethurst.

Though Curtis had two of four votes, he still hadn’t won the election. A coin toss would be necessary to further narrow the field.

The first of two coin tosses was made to decide whether it would be Larsen or Erickson who would advance to the next round to face Curtis. Larsen called it – and lost.

During the next round of voting, Erickson and Curtis earned two votes each. Rather than having the council members enter into a discussion, City Manager Adam Lenhard flipped the coin again to determine who the newest council member would be.

Vardell Curtis walks away from the podium after making his case to join the City Council at City Hall in St. George, Utah, Feb. 8, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

While each council member had their own unique criteria to determine who deserved their vote, a few qualities were common: They looked for evidence of service and leadership, the candidate’s ability to collaborate and whether the candidate shared the councilors’ vision for St. George.


Each of the three finalists possessed these qualities in their own respective ways. Larsen said her work with the Planning Commission had changed the way she views the world.

“I have driven, walked, observed what surrounds me,” she said. “I look at people, traffic, homes and commercial development in the area and try to envision their impact on the community.”

Hughes said he was impressed by Larsen’s commitment to the commission to hearing from as many sources as possible before making up her mind.

Curtis also serves on the Planning Commission, along with a slew of other community and service clubs. He served as president of the Breakfast Exchange Club in 1992, president of the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise in 2000 and president of the Dixie Sunshiners that same year.

Curtis noted that experience is key, but he felt that there hadn’t been enough attention paid to an intangible quality.

“Occasionally, my opinion or my vote may not be 100% in harmony with the council,” he said, “but I promise you this: Once a vote is taken and a decision made, I will support and defend the final outcome.”

McArthur said that he’d spent an hour or more on the phone with Erickson, and that the latter did not take this process, or his work, lightly.

Erickson said St. George stands at a crossroads of “many intersecting, and, at times, competing interests.”

“How these competing interests are addressed will profoundly affect our citizenry for decades to come.”

He said that chief among those interests are sustaining St. George’s growth while preserving its aesthetic beauty and quality of life, ensuring that the city has enough water and recognizing societal shifts and realities of the present while acknowledging, maintaining and honoring the traditions that make St. George a desirable home.

“More than anything else, I want St. George to remain a place where my children will want to call home,” he said.

Thanks to the flip of a coin, Erickson will get a shot at contributing to the council’s decision-making process. And the council, each of whom said they struggled to embrace just one candidate, was given some welcome assistance in making their choice.

“There were so many qualified candidates,” said Councilman Jimmie Hughes. “It came down to a coin toss. That’s poetic justice.”

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!