Murray's mayor Dan Snarr hardly looks or acts the part of a politician

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 25 2013 3:00 p.m. MST

He played a role in bringing three large hotels to the city, as well as the University of Utah medical campus, a large apartment complex and expansion of Fashion Place Mall. Dilapidated and sometimes boarded buildings were replaced by revenue-producing commercial projects. He laid the groundwork by sinking $42 million into improved electrical power and other infrastructure, which attracted the businesses.

“Murray suffered for so long without change,” says Snarr. “We had to ask, 'What do we need to do to make people believe Murray is a good place to do business?'"

Murray has the lowest taxes of any city in Salt Lake County, largely because they are offset by the taxes reaped from the $1.8 billion worth of new development the city has attracted.

Snarr says he was reviled in the process and sometimes threatened. People felt sentimental for old buildings, even the smokestacks. One of the hotel projects, located near the hospital, drew special ire.

“It barely passed, by one vote," he says. "The City Council was shaking in their boots; they were worried people wouldn’t vote for them. People are always threatening that they won’t vote for me. I want what’s good for the city, not what’s going to get me elected."

The complainers

Snarr decided not to run for re-election this fall largely because he is weary of dealing with people who are angry about his development projects.

“It’s taken its toll on me,” he says. “People complain, but if it requires sacrifice or them doing something about it, they say, oh, no, that’s government’s responsibility."

Case in point: He received several complaints about a woman’s yard. She lived alone and her yard had gone to weeds. Snarr finally took care of the problem himself. He ripped out the weeds and patchy grass, hauled it to the dump, installed a new sprinkler system, and laid new sod. It took him five months. He has done the same thing for other yards in the area, usually those belonging to widows and the elderly.

“Everyone complains,” he says. “Let’s do something about it.”

There was an empty lot that was an eyesore; it also drew complaints. Rather than call city employees, the mayor sprayed the weeds and tended the yard — for seven years. Eventually, he paved the way for an apartment complex to be built there, which drew more complaints from residents.

“I stepped up to do something about this, and I've been doing it for years," he told them in a meeting that aired the gripes, "None of you came to my aid. You waved at me. Now we are going to do something that’s productive with this property.”

Snarr revels in progress. He drives around the city simply to look for problems to fix. What he saw for years were weeds. City employees cut them down only to see them grow back. “Weeds are not a cash crop,” he said. He sprayed the weeds instead and did it himself — and he’s still spraying. He carries a backpack sprayer in the back seat of his car, and when he sees weeds while driving around town he pulls over and poisons them.

“He does that all the time,” says his wife, April. “People complain, but I see him do things no one else would do. No job is beneath him. He’ll be driving around and say: ‘This is bugging me. I’m going to come over and do that yard.’ He’ll just show up with a backpack on. The (residents) will look out their window and wonder who’s in their yards. He looks like a Ghostbuster.”

Snarr, whose great-grandfather was an early settler in Murray in 1860, wants others to share in his sense of pride in the community and act. He believes in appearances, which is why he had the shrubs ripped out on State Street and replaced with flowers. “I love flowers,” he says. “O.C. Tanner used to say, what your image is on the outside attracts people to the inside. That’s why his businesses looked so good."

People ask Snarr why he is so aggressive in his job, and he says, “Because I like to get up and see progress in the making.”

The entrepreneur

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