The City Council will appoint an interim mayor to replace Mayor S. Blaine Willes, who becomes a member of the Utah State Tax Commission in July.
State law prohibits members of the Tax Commission, which sets tax policy in the state, from holding other offices. Willes will "absolutely" have to step down as mayor, said Francine Giani, press secretary for Gov. Norm Bangerter.If he does not, "there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest," Giani said.
Willes officially begins his four-year term with the commission on July 1. However, he will begin work June 1 in order to acquaint himself with the commission, Giani said.
Willes is not sure he has to relinquish his position as mayor, but "I'll clearly go along with what the commission says. My intent is to accept the position."
Willes, who began serving his second term as mayor in 1989, indicated some time ago he did not plan to seek re-election.
Gov. Norm Bangerter nominated Willes last month to replace G. Blaine Davis, who is leaving the commission to pursue other interests. The Utah Senate confirmed Willes' nomination during a special session of the Legislature Wednesday.
The commission is balanced politically rather than geographically, with two Democrat members, two Republicans (including Willes) and one Independent.
"It (Willes' appointment) surprised us," said Orem City Council Member James T. Evans. "It was kind of a shock."
Willes will be an "excellent tax commissioner" because of his sensitivity to local government issues and his background in banking and the private sector, said Sen. Craig Peterson, R-Orem. Peterson is chairman of the Senate's State and Local Affairs Standing Committee. Many of the bills the committee deals with involve tax issues affecting local government.
What concerns Peterson now is who will take Willes' place as mayor of Orem.
Stewart Taylor, assistant city manager, said Orem City Code requires that the City Council appoint an interim mayor who will serve until January.
A new mayor will be elected during the general election in November to finish the two years left of Willes' term.
The council has three options for appointing an interim mayor: it can appoint a member of the council to the position and then appoint a city resident to fill the vacated council seat; it can appoint a resident who is interested in becoming mayor in the future; or, it can choose any resident to fill the seat until an elected mayor takes office in January.
"I think there will be considerable discussion among the members of the City Council (about what to do)," Taylor said.
Willes has a master's degree in geology from Brigham Young University and was a vice president at the former Deseret Federal Bank before becoming a financial consultant.
Before becoming mayor he served one term as a city councilman, has been treasurer of the Utah League of Cities and Towns and chairman of the Utah County Council of Governments.