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Mayor-elect Ron Bigelow hopes to bring change to troubled West Valley City Police Department

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5 2013 10:45 p.m. MST

West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang looks at election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, during a small gathering of family and friends at Shula's restaurant in West Valley City. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang looks at election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, during a small gathering of family and friends at Shula's restaurant in West Valley City. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY — After representing West Valley City for more than a dozen years in the state Legislature, Ron Bigelow hopes his election as mayor will bring needed change to Utah's second-largest city.

"All along I have felt there is a need to address some issues," Bigelow said after winning 60 percent of the vote Tuesday with all precincts reporting. "There are many great things about West Valley City, but we have a few problems that we want to address."

At the top of that list is reforming the city's police department, he said.

The highly scrutinized police force has been hit by one startling revelation after another in the past year — closing the unresolved case of Susan Cox Powell's disappearance; the unjustified shooting death of 21-year-old Danielle Willard; a history of procedural violations by the department's now shuttered Neighborhood Narcotics Unit and subsequent dismissal of 124 state and federal drug cases; and the ongoing battle over the dismissal of detective Shaun Cowley, one of two officers who pulled the trigger against Willard.

West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang looks at election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, during a small gathering of family and friends at Shula's restaurant in West Valley City. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang looks at election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, during a small gathering of family and friends at Shula's restaurant in West Valley City. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"(The police department) is what so many people asked me to take a look at," Bigelow said, noting that some residents he talked to in his door-to-door campaign said the department was troubled, while others feared it was merely a perception problem.

One of his first tasks as mayor will be sitting down with new West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo and City Manager Wayne Pyle.

A recently retired certified public accountant and two-year state budget director in the governor's office, Bigelow also promised a balanced budget, no tax increases and efforts toward resolving the city's financial obligations, according to his campaign website.

Bigelow also led the primary election in August, earning 34 percent of the vote, while challengers Karen Lang and Don Christensen each claimed a little more than 17 percent for the second and third positions, respectively.

West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang laughs during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) West Valley City mayoral candidate Karen Lang laughs during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Just 13 votes pushed Lang ahead of Christensen, the outgoing city councilman, who gave up his at-large seat to run for mayor. Lang has represented District 3 since 2011 and claimed 40 percent of the votes Tuesday.

Outgoing Mayor Mike Winder was subject to a controversy of his own when it was revealed he had penned positive stories about West Valley City for local media outlets, including the Deseret News, under the name Richard Burwash.

Winder announced in May that he would not seek a second term, citing the need to work full time to provide for his family.

Lars Nordfelt won the race for West Valley City's at-large City Council seat with 56 percent of the vote. Christensen vacated the position to run for mayor but lost in August's primary election.

West Valley City Mayoral candidate Karen Lang, center, talks with Larry Knowlden, his son Brayden and current West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) West Valley City Mayoral candidate Karen Lang, center, talks with Larry Knowlden, his son Brayden and current West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Incumbent Steve Buhler retained the council's District 2 seat with 62 percent of the vote. Buhler was elected to the council in 2009 and practices law in West Valley.

Incumbent Steve Vincent kept the council's District 4 seat with 58 percent of the vote. Vincent has focused on improving residential standards in the city and began serving with the council after his election in 2001.

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