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New Helper mayor wins seat by luck of the draw

Published: Friday, March 15 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

Ed Chavez Jr. is sworn in as the new mayor of Helper Friday, March 15, 2013 — a seat he won Thursday night when his name was pulled out of a wicker basket during a City Council meeting.

John Serfustini, Sun Advocate

HELPER — The city's new mayor was sworn in Friday after winning his seat by luck of the draw.

"I was kind of shocked that I was the one whose name was drawn," Mayor Ed Chavez Jr. said.

In two rounds of voting Thursday night, Chavez and incumbent Helper City Councilman Kirk Mascaro each received two votes from the City Council to fill the mayor's seat.

When it became clear that the tie would not be broken, the slips of paper bearing the council members' votes were placed in a wicker basket held by City Recorder Jona Skerl. City Attorney Gene Strate then drew Chavez's name from the basket, making him Helper's new chief executive officer.

"Kirk (Mascaro) and I grew up together," Chavez said, "and I'm pretty sure, I don't think there's going to be any animosity between us. We'll work together just fine."

Chavez, who said he would have applied to fill Mascaro's council seat if Mascaro had become mayor, has a long record of public service.

He retired from the Carbon County Sheriff's Office two weeks ago after 25 years on the job. He also served on the Wellington City Council for 15 years and spent five years as chairman of the Carbon County Democratic Party.

Now he's stepping in to fill the rest of former Mayor Dean Armstrong's term, which runs until January 2014.

Armstrong, 51, resigned from office Feb. 23, one day after he was arrested by the Utah Highway Patrol for investigation of his third DUI.

It was Armstrong's second arrest for drunken driving while he was mayor. He pleaded guilty to impaired driving following a November 2011 traffic stop in Price and was sentenced to pay a fine and wear an electronic ankle monitor for 60 days.

Prosecutors have charged him with DUI and being an alcohol-restricted driver, both misdemeanors, in connection with last month's arrest.

The new mayor said he will dedicate himself to ensuring that major public works projects already slated for the city go forward as planned. He'd also like to attract new residents to Helper and improve the city's image.

He acknowledged that his predecessor's arrests comprise a sad chapter in Helper's history.

"We're entering into a new chapter in Helper City," he said. "What's in the past is in the past.

"All I'm asking is that the residents of Helper put their trust into me and give me a chance to show them what I can do for them," the mayor said.

E-mail: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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