CEDAR CITY — With just one week left until Election Day, incumbent Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards and challenger Garth O. Green faced off one last time on Tuesday evening.
In an hourlong moderated debate held in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center on the Southern Utah University campus, the two candidates addressed a variety of topics as they each made their case as to why voters should choose them to be the city’s mayor for the next four years.
The campaign has been an expensive endeavor for both Wilson-Edwards, who is seeking her third term as mayor, and Green, a political newcomer. According to the financial disclosure documents recently posted on the city’s website, each has generated six-figure amounts in collective contributions for their respective campaigns, including in-kind donations and money they paid themselves. Green’s total contributions are in excess of $130,000, while Wilson-Edwards’ campaign has received more than $106,000.
And while the race has been contentious at times over the past several months, both candidates were cordial as they took turns answering questions on the stage Tuesday evening.
Both candidates have strong community ties that span generations. Wilson-Edwards is a lifelong Cedar City resident whose grandfather Loren Whetten served two terms as mayor from 1966-73.
Green spoke of his own roots as he gave his brief opening remarks on Tuesday.
“I was raised just west of the university here, down in what was the college farm at the time,” the self-described “older feller” Green said. “It was the old BAC, the Branch Agricultural College, so that will age me quite a bit.”
The first question of the evening asked about the mayor’s role.
Wilson-Edwards noted that Cedar City’s municipal government is structured on a “weak mayor” format, with the mayor taking a back seat to the City Council when it comes to legislative activities.
“In eight years, I have never voted on an item,” she said, adding, “I do prepare the budget. But more important than anything, I’ve worked with our community. When people have problems, they have concerns, I’m the liaison. I’m the person they come to, and the individual that gets everyone gathered around a table to solve problems.
“I’m the one that goes out and meets with legislators, meets with other policymakers, meets with our congressional representatives to get funding into our community,” she added. “I have made it a priority to have individuals realize that Cedar City matters.”
Green said that if elected, he would draw from his extensive business experience.
Describing himself as “a can-do sort of person,” he said, “I find ways. I look for opportunities. I have vision. I have many, many years of experience in business and in banking and in dealing with water.”
“I look for the opportunities to use that vision, my experience and knowledge that I’ve obtained over a lifetime,” Green added. “And the leadership abilities that I’ve developed through some 50 years of working in the private sector, to use that for the benefit of Cedar City.”
Green said this is a first run for him; he’s never been in politics.
“The job of the mayor is interesting, in that I can see the avenues that I need to work with the council and with the staff,” he said. “I understand what it’s like to collaborate with people.”
During the remainder of the debate, the candidates took turns answering approximately a dozen questions, with individual responses limited to 90 seconds each. The various topics addressed included transparency and accountability, growth, jobs, water, volunteerism, tourism, traffic issues, the Paiute community, and potential business development on the north end of town.
The event was streamed live on the Facebook page of SUU’s Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, which hosted and organized the event, along with the Cedar City Council candidate forum that had been held the previous week.
The mayoral debate had originally been scheduled for Oct. 19 also, but that part was postponed one week due to Wilson-Edwards and her family being ill with COVID-19.
As of the beginning of this week, the mayor was no longer symptomatic and had been medically cleared to participate. She wore a face mask throughout the evening except when speaking onstage during the debate.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for postponing this as I recovered from COVID,” Wilson-Edwards said, adding that Green had told her it would be fine for her to remove her mask during the debate so that she could be heard more clearly.
During their closing remarks on Tuesday, both candidates summed up their reasons for running.
“It’s been an interesting opportunity for me to run for political office,” Green said. “I’m an old guy, I’ve made some money. I’ve served all over the world, on every continent, including Antarctica. I do this for one reason: I want to give service to the people of Cedar City.
“This is my home. It’s my home town. I’ve been here for a very long time, and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of living in this community. And so I think I come with some skills and abilities that can benefit the city. I think it’s my turn to try and do this,” he said. “I think it’s a good time for a change.”
Wilson-Edwards spoke of what it means to lead a city.
“A city is different than a business,” she said. “In a city, it isn’t a dictatorship. It is working with others and ultimately serving the general populace. That’s what you’re here for. You’re not here for failure, not here for glory. You’re here to serve our residents.”
Wilson-Edwards said she felt very fortunate to have had amazing opportunities working with the youngest and oldest residents of the community, adding that she would appreciate the opportunity of serving another four years.
“There isn’t a learning curve with me,” she said. “Day one, I know what to do. I know how to prepare a budget without raising taxes. And I would appreciate your vote for mayor on the ballots that hopefully arrived today.”
After some unforeseen printer-related delays, Iron County’s ballots did go out in the mail on Friday, Iron County Clerk Jon Whittaker said in an earlier announcement, encouraging residents to fill their ballots out and return them promptly.
Ballots may be dropped off at designated locations up until Election Day, Nov. 2. If mailed, they must be postmarked no later than Nov. 1.
Additionally, because of the delay in getting the ballots out, two early voting centers have been set up for in-person voting. The locations are the Cedar City Council chambers at 10 N. Main in Cedar City and the Iron County Courthouse at 68 S. 100 East, Parowan.
Both places will be open for in-person voting starting Wednesday and until Saturday, at the following times: noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
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