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Salt Lake Mayor Becker taking comfortable stroll along campaign trail

Published: Thursday, Oct. 27 2011 8:28 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake Mayor candidate J. Allen Kimball at his home, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011Salt Lake Mayor candidate J. Allen Kimball at his home, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011

Marc Weaver, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Ralph Becker continues to walk the campaign trail, going door-to-door, chatting with residents and handing out fliers.

It was that grass-roots, on-the-porch campaigning that Becker credits for his victory in a hotly contested race to replace Rocky Anderson as Salt Lake City's mayor four years ago.

This time around, Becker is comfortably cruising toward a second term in office. There was no primary election, and his only competition on Election Day comes from a 79-year-old political newcomer who only filed as a candidate because nobody else did.

"It's been very comfortable," Becker said of his re-election bid. "It's been almost too relaxing in a way because there just hasn't been the level of intensity that I'm used to in a campaign."

Avenues resident J. Allen Kimball didn't want Becker to be too comfortable, though. An uncontested race, Kimball says, can give a politician a false sense of approval from the people he or she serves.

Kimball cites a poll earlier this year that indicated Becker had an 84 percent approval rating with Salt Lake City residents. That number also sounds about right to Kimball, but he wants to make sure the mayor doesn't ignore that other 16 percent.

"I just think somebody needed to (run against Becker)," he said.

Kimball recalls putting up his flag on Fourth of July and wondering if anyone had decided to run against Becker — and if they hadn't, whether he'd be up to the task.

He visited the Salt Lake City Recorder's Office three times prior to July 15 — the final day candidates could file for municipal elections. During the third of those visits, Kimball paid his $315 and officially declared himself as a candidate for mayor.

Though municipal elections are nonpartisan and the candidates' political affiliation will not be listed on ballots, Kimball said he identifies with the Republican Party. Becker is a longtime Democrat. Salt Lake City voters have not elected a Republican mayor since 1971.

Who is J. Allen Kimball?

Kimball is a lifelong resident of Salt Lake City who grew up on the east bench before settling in 1961 in the Avenues, where he's lived ever since.

He graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1953 and spent the majority of his career working in the family business, Kimball Equipment Co., selling construction equipment.

In 1989, while serving as Kimball Equipment's president, Kimball moved the expanding company into a long-abandoned manufacturing facility that had been scheduled for demolition.

Today, the 65-year-old company is still located at that site, 2839 W. California Ave. It's a point of pride for Kimball, who says far too many industrial companies have moved out of Salt Lake City when they've needed to expand.

"Companies either grow or they ungrow,"  he said. "The companies that grow need more room, so they have to change locations."

Kimball said Salt Lake City should be doing more to help those companies, utilizing undeveloped land in the city's Northwest Quadrant to bring back an industrial component he says the city is lacking.

Kimball doesn't blame Becker for decisions by manufacturing companies to relocate outside of Salt Lake City. It's a problem Becker inherited, he says, "but he hasn't done very much to change the direction."

Kimball says Becker is too focused on pet initiatives such as adding bicycle lanes and building a downtown performing arts center.

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