MILLCREEK — Millcreek now has less than a year to transition from township to Salt Lake County's 17th city, and community members are champing at the bit to form their new government.
Twenty election hopefuls had already thrown their hat into the ring — weeks before the March 17 filing deadline and more than nine months away from the November election.
Four candidates have filed to become Millcreek's first mayor, and 16 others have filed for candidacy for four City Council seats, according to Salt Lake County's candidate filing list on Thursday.
"There's obviously enthusiasm for the new city," said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. "It's a good start. I'm sure that list of candidates will grow all the way up until the March 17 deadline."
Voters chose last year to make the community of 62,500 the state's 10th-largest city by a 2-to-1 margin, prompting a special 2016 election to choose the city's first mayor and City Council.
After November's election, Millcreek's new leaders will have about two months before the township officially weans itself from Salt Lake County to operate under its own government. The transition date: Jan. 1, 2017.
Swensen said the early group of candidates bodes well for the daunting task of launching a brand new city.
"I think it's very exciting that many people are willing to take on that responsibility, because it's a huge responsibility to get a city up and running," she said. "It's no small task."
Max Worthington of Preserve and Protect our Millcreek Township, the group that campaigned against incorporation, said it will be critical that Millcreek's first mayor and City Council live up to voter expectations and prove that Millcreek will not only remain financially stable, but also better off as its own city.
"It's going to be very important that they deliver on what was represented to the people" when they were urged by pro-city groups to vote for city status, Worthington said. "I think it's going to be a bit of a challenge."
He said the city will "probably" be tempted to enact franchise taxes or other fees and fines to help pay for services, but pro-city supporters argued Millcreek City will have a sufficient tax base to provide the same level of municipal services it currently receives without raising taxes.
Two of the candidates vying for mayor come from last year's pro-city campaign: Fred Healey, who was chairman of Millcreek Neighbors for Representative Government, and Jeff Silvestrini, who was a committee member of the group and chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council.
Longtime Millcreek resident Edward Frank and entrepreneur Phillip Archer are also running for mayor.
Frank was born and raised in Millcreek and is a real estate salesman with a political science degree from the University of Utah. Archer, who moved to Millcreek about a year ago, is a real estate agent with offices in Utah and Texas.
Healey and Silvestrini share similar visions for Millcreek City. They both said they want to deliver on their campaign's promises and structure Millcreek as a city that can provide as good or better services at the same cost.
Frank said he would prioritize attracting businesses and help preserve Millcreek's "cluster of great neighborhoods" while "improving it in anyway I can."
Archer said he would emphasize community input by aiming to keep Millcreek's current community councils intact, at least for the first several years for "continuity," he said.
In City Council Distrct 1, Diane Angus is running against Stanton VanWagoner.
In District 2, the candidates are Thomas Davis, Dwayne Vance and Dwight Marchant.
In District 3, four candidates include Chaskey Barry, Jem Keller, Cheri Jackson and Jeffrey Waters.
District 4 currently has seven candidates: Vaughn Howard, Lisa Bagley, Barry Bowen, Bev Uipi, Seraya Amirthalingam, Lamont Tyler and Kurt Zimmerman.
John Janson, a member of the Millcreek Township Planning Commission, said while Millcreek has months to prepare for city status, there's still a lot of work to do. That's why a combination of commission members, community council members and candidates have already begun meeting to prepare recommendations for city leaders when they're elected.
The group has begun compiling information on current ordinances and projects, and evaluating its current budget so the mayor and council members have material to work from when they are elected, Janson said.
Deciding where city officials will meet is also an ongoing conversation.
"There is certainly no ability to build a city hall right off the bat," he said. "I was in West Valley City back in 1980 when they incorporated, and they were in a warehouse for 10 years."
"It really is starting from scratch," Janson said. "But most communities don't get a whole year to get ready. Some cities have their first election in November and start in January. We're pretty lucky, so we're trying to prepare as best we can."
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