A change in the form of West Jordan's city government is being promoted by residents who will be on the street with petitions, possibly as early as Thursday, seeking support for a special election.
The committee of five residents, including former Mayor Dennis Randall, wants a full-time mayor instead of the current city manager/council form of government. Randall said 15 to 30 people will be circulating the petitions initially.Committee chairman Brent Overson said the group should be able to collect 200 to 300 signatures in about 10 days. He said he is confident the approximately 1,300 signatures needed to call the special election will not be difficult to get.
"The feelings regarding this issue are deep-rooted," he told Mayor Kristin Lambert, who serves part time, and four members of the City Council at their regular Tuesday meeting, adding that he knows of four people who are interested in running for mayor during the November municipal election, regardless of whether the form of government changes. He believes the city has 50 to 100 people qualified to take on a full-time job as mayor.
The mayor's post will be open during the election, because Lambert has said she will not run. She was serving on the City Council and was appointed to the city's top elected post when ex-Mayor Bob Roberts resigned in 1988.
Neither Randall nor Overson has plans to run for mayor, they said, and they would not elaborate on individuals who might be interested in the post.
Randall said he favors the full-time mayor form of government because it makes an elected official directly accountable to city residents. "This is where my heart is," he said of the proposal to change the government form, adding that his desire to see a change is not motivated by any individual personalities currently in city government.
"The sentiment in this city for a change is so strong that this will be one of the most exciting things to hit the city in a long time," Randall said.
Overson would like to see the special election occur in the spring so candidates would have plenty of time to prepare for a September primary. He suggested the council bypass the petition process by calling a special election themselves. "I would be surprised if we do that," Lambert said. "I feel like if we were to do what they were asking, it would have the effect of giving it our blessing. I think the best they can hope for is to have the council remain neutral."
The rumor around City Hall is that Councilman Paul Henderson, who just completed his first year on the council, has his eye on the mayor's post. "I'm going to have to see what happens," he said. "I'm not going to rule that out though."
Henderson said he believes the proposal to change the form of government will "sail through," even though he believes the change could be more costly - depending on what the city decided to pay a full-time mayor, and whether it replaced the city manager with a chief administrative officer.
Henderson said City Manager Ron Olson's $44,000 salary is more than residents would want to pay a mayor in a city where the average family income is $28,000.
Councilwoman Penny Atkinson, appointed to fill the vacancy created when Lambert was appointed mayor, is the only council member facing election in November. She said she plans to run for election regardless of whether she would serve with a part-time or full-time mayor. "It's the people's government," she said. "They should decide what they want. I just hope it's not an emotional issue."
Olson said a special election would cost the city about $10,000.