PAROWAN — Mayor-elect Mollie Halterman is eager to get started.
When she is officially sworn in in January, Halterman will become the first woman to be mayor in Parowan’s 170-year history.
Even more remarkably, she accomplished the feat as a write-in candidate, and also won by a wide margin.
According to the latest vote totals released Friday by Iron County Clerk Jonathan Whittaker, Halterman received 586 of the 1,144 votes cast in that race, or 51.2% of the total. Incumbent Mayor Preston Griffiths was a distant second with 291 votes, while challenger Vickie L. Hicks had 264.
Only three write-in voters didn’t fill in Halterman’s name on the ballot, allaying her own fears about the write-in aspect being an insurmountable hurdle.
It wasn’t until after her 77-year-old mother Maxine Bates died in July that Halterman decided to run for mayor, she explained.
“I’d had several people saying I should run, but the timing just didn’t seem right,” she told Cedar City News.
As a caregiver for her mother, she said she worried about splitting her time and energy between the two.
“Anything I do, I do 100%. So it was one of those things where I knew if I left her side, I just would be running for mayor,” she said. “And so I didn’t want to make that decision at that time. But then when she did pass away, it became an option. I actually had someone call me and say, ‘You know you can still run as a write-in, right?’
“And I was like, ‘No, I didn’t know that was an option.’ And they said, ‘Yes, if you still want to run, you could go down and you could still declare your candidacy. You just won’t be printed on the ballot.’”
Before proceeding, Halterman said she talked with a few people concerning the viability of a write-in candidacy.
One of them was Marie B. Adams, the wife of former Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams, who told Halterman that years ago, her husband’s twin brother Alan Adams had been elected to the school board as a write-in candidate.
“I knew that it was possible,” Halterman said, adding that another part of her hesitancy was that she didn’t want to say she was going to do something if she didn’t think she could do it.
Halterman said Adams’ supporters at the time were able to go around and hand out stickers with his name on them for people to affix to the ballot, something that is no longer permitted.
“So that was the biggest challenge,” she said. “How do we get the word out that I’m running because I’m coming in so late in the game? And then, how do we help people understand how to write in a candidate?”
The answer, Halterman said, was to coach and show voters how to properly fill in a candidate’s name on the ballot.
“I had people who helped me with educating how to write in a candidate,” she said. “I had a person make me banners that showed how to write in a candidate.”
“There was a lot of concern about how my name was spelled,” she added. “People were really concerned that if ‘Mollie’ were spelled wrong with a ‘y,’ then their vote wouldn’t count.”
“Then we found out that as long as the clear intention was there, then the vote would count. So that alleviated a lot of people’s concerns.”
But beyond the visual aids addressing the mechanics of adding a write-in name to one’s ballot, Halterman said she focused on running a positive campaign designed around unifying the town’s citizens.
“That was one of my slogans, ‘Bringing people together for Parowan,’ because when we bring people together, we can do anything,” she said.
“I just tried to get in front of as many people as I could, to explain to them why I was running,” she added. “I’d already been involved in so many things in Parowan, with community and civic involvement and volunteerism, and then I kind of figured out some patterns that were working and making some positive changes for our community. I felt like I could be more effective if I were actually in the position of being the mayor, and that I was going to need to count on them to write me in.”
Halterman said she drew from her experience as a small business owner, having started the Gym on Main fitness center with her mother in 2009, along with her role as president of the local chamber of commerce, to help make connections.
“The key to that really is our habits in buying local,” she said. “We start local, we look around our own town and community for the products and services we need, and create a new habit of shopping local first.”
“Every dollar we spend is a vote,” she added. “It’s a vote for that business to stay open.”
Halterman emphasized the importance of how money is spent, as it determines the strength and the foundation of the economies of local communities. She said the same principle applies to attracting new businesses to the area.
“If we talk positively about our business climate, it’s going to spread,” she said. “And when people come and find new areas, they want to figure out what they could do to either bring their business there or start something new. The attitude of the residents and the other business owners has a huge impact on what we attract to our communities.”
The secret to growing well, she said, is in keeping good communication, community involvement and transparency.
“Because we can handle anything as long as we know what’s going on,” she added.
As she awaited the first set of results to be released on Election Night last Tuesday, Halterman said she expected the race to be close, as both Griffiths and Hicks had also run strong campaigns.
“And then when that email came in, and it showed me with double the votes of my opponents, I was just blown away,” she recalled. “And all I could think of, is just never underestimate what you can do when you have other people behind you. I mean, you really can do anything when you have other people behind you.”
According to the Iron County Clerk’s office, Parowan’s voter turnout for last week’s election exceeded 64%, the highest of any municipality in the county.
Halterman expressed thanks to all of her supporters, particularly those who actively helped with the campaign.
“Bringing in the strength, collaboration and partnering of others is really the key to the best possible outcome for our communities, for our state and for our nation,” she said.
“That pattern to me is so clear,” she added. “That pattern gave me the courage to run as a write-in because I had seen that pattern be effective in other things I’d done as a volunteer. Seeing that pattern as I campaigned, with people helping me have a strong campaign, and then recognizing that that’s the pattern that I plan to use and lead our community as mayor.”
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