Washington City mayoral candidates share why they’re right for the job, most pressing issues

In this file photo, Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson shares the State of the City address given during a St. George Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Washington City, Feb. 10, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — This year the mayor’s seat is up grabs in Washington City.

St. George News reached out to the individuals seeking to either be elected or reelected to the mayor’s sear with questions about why they are running for office and what they would like the public to known about them.

The answers from the candidates who responded are shared below.

One of the candidates will be bumped from the running in the primary election set for Aug. 10, with the remaining two set to fight for the mayoral seat in the Nov. 2 general election.

Kress Staheli – Currently sits on the Washington City Council

Kress Staheli, Washington City, dare unspecified | Photo courtesy of Kress Staheli, St. George News

Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job?

I’m running to serve as Mayor because I care about the residents and the future of Washington City. I have the ability, time, and desire to make a difference. I’m a current City Councilmember with over 5 years of elected service. I’ve also served as a Planning Commissioner, so I understand the public process and how to be effective in representative leadership.

My priorities include:

  • Public Safety – Supporting police officers, fire fighters, and first responders in caring for the community and sustaining law and order.
  • Public Services – Focusing on providing essential roles of municipal government, including water, sewer, power, roads, storm drain, etc. in the most cost effective way possible.
  • Public Spaces – Updating the General Plan with citizen input, protecting property rights, preserving the natural beauty of our area and our “hometown” feel.

What are the most pressing issues you hope to address?

I firmly believe the decisions we make today are critical for the future of Washington City. My top concern right now is the high rate of growth we are experiencing, which includes the related issues of providing water and infrastructure in general. I would like to see us remain relatively quaint and retain and improve upon the feel and charm that drew or kept us here. In the midst of this, many middle income earners like teachers, retail and service employees, and other workers are having a very difficult time obtaining housing, which could drastically transform our community over time.

It’s imperative that the Mayor and Council prioritize and set disciplined budgets and that they give proper oversight to each budget. Every expense must be handled appropriately, with the utmost prudence and care for taxpayer dollars. We also need to be continually forward thinking in our planning and decision making, setting a clear vision and understanding of how the decisions we make today will impact the community over time.

As Mayor, I’m committed to leading out, planning and working to get these decisions right for our benefit, and for the benefit of those who follow us.

What would you like voters to know about you?

I was born and raised into a farming family in Washington City as the youngest of four boys so I understand hard work, the value of agriculture, and the necessity of procuring and conserving water. I have the unique perspective of seeing Washington evolve from the small town of my youth to what it is today. I still miss The Burger Place and Nisson’s Mercantile. It’s hard to see “The Fields” become rooftops. I graduated from SUU with a degree in Accounting, so I understand and am committed to setting and following disciplined, prioritized budgets.

I served in the Utah Army National Guard in the local 2-222 Field Artillery Unit, so I salute the flag and understand sacrifices made for freedom. I’m a successful small business owner of over 20 years with the same company, so I have the time and flexibility to be an active and fully engaged Mayor. My wife and I have been married for 25 years and are the parents of 4 children. We enjoy many of the outdoor, sporting, and cultural activities this area has to offer. I enjoy traveling and running marathons. I appreciate quick wit and a good hamburger.

Ken Neilson – Incumbent

Ken Neilson, Washington City, dare unspecified | Photo courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job?

Why am I the right candidate? Because I care about the citizens of Washington City.

My experiences as the current Mayor have provided valuable insights as to what is important to our residents. Going through the pandemic, and keeping our outdoor activities open for our residents, was a tough decision to make but I felt was a great outlet for them.

We have all been through some challenging times and I feel like my Leadership through those tough times has helped keep us focused on what is most important; our families, friends and neighbors.

What are the most pressing issues you hope to address?

Two Issues pressing:

Affordable Housing: We are working with several outside entities to determine what does affordable mean, locating and acquiring property, and then working with everyone involved in the housing industry to see what we can actually accomplish.

Water Conservation: We all need to take water conservation seriously. We are working on a system to pump secondary reuse water and runoff water into reservoirs, pressurize that secondary water so residents can use that water instead of culinary water for their lawns, gardens and outdoor use.

Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job?

What would they like to know about me? My priorities center around my family, friends and the wonderful citizens of Washington City. I will make myself available anytime to everyone. I believe firmly that government is truly; of the people, by the people and for the people. Less government in our lives is better. Amazing things can happen in communities where people work together to get things done.

Doug Ward – Currently sits on the Washington City Council

Doug Ward, Washington City, dare unspecified | Photo courtesy of Doug Ward, St. George News

Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job?

I am currently the Mayor Pro Tempore and an experienced Council member who knows that:

Leadership matters.

People love living in this area.

The biggest concern I hear from residents is they are afraid they will lose what they love about their home.

I have established myself as a trusted leader on the council with both staff and council members and helped elevate the voice of citizens. I know how to develop a vision, prioritize the goals necessary to achieve the vision, and unify the efforts of all to bring the best ideas forward. I have the tenacity and focus to bring them to life.

Washington City matters. We will not get a second chance to get this right.

What are the most pressing issues you hope to address?

Priority no. 1: Ensure Washington City remains a great place for our children and grandchildren to live.

Priority no. 2: Make Washington City the best run city in Utah. Since the last election we have lost our city manager and a surprising number of key positions. I am the only candidate who originally supported our already proven new city management. As mayor, I will repair our reputation and uplift our management, employees, Council, volunteers, and citizens.

Priority no. 3: Establish Washington as a trusted partner/leader in our area and see that we do our part to succeed regionally.

I am also committed to:

  • Transparency in government.
  • The proper use of government powers.
  • Elevating the professionalism of our City government.

What would you like voters to know about you?

I am not a photo-op guy — instead preferring to direct accolades to the team. However, I understand the position requires dignified public representation. I hope to set an example of service that inspires others to serve in local government.

I have always been willing to fight for a just cause even at my own expense. My preferred method will always be to win people’s trust, seek to elevate the conversation and build consensus. There is no kindness in always telling people what they want to hear. I am committed to truthfulness and realism.

Our city deserves the full attention of its mayor. I believe it is ineffectual and dishonest for local representatives to represent fixing Washington D.C. from local office.

For all of St. George News’ coverage of 2021 municipal elections, click here.

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

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