Ralph Becker ventured into enemy territory Wednesday a room full of Davis County elected leaders.
The new Salt Lake City mayor paid a visit to the Davis County Council of Governments meeting at the Capitol in an effort to repair the rift between Utah's capital city and its "friends to the north."
The visit was well-received by Davis County leaders, whose relationship with previous Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was anything but friendly.
"Many of you are aware that many in our county had a very 'Rocky' relationship with the Salt Lake mayor," said Scott Harbertson, Farmington mayor and chairman of the Davis County COG. "I am assured the new mayor is here to make things Becker I mean, better."
Harbertson's play on words drew a few laughs and even more groans from his COG colleagues, but it also was representative of the comfortable and genial tone of Becker's brief, 10-minute visit.
"I've always enjoyed my relationships from my colleagues in the Legislature from Davis County," said Becker, who served 11 years in the state House of Representatives prior to being elected mayor. "We worked well together on a lot of issues. I'm really looking forward to working with all of you."
Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs called Becker's willingness to work with neighboring counties "really refreshing."
Anderson made plenty of enemies in Davis County elected officials and residents alike for joining an environmental lawsuit in August 2001 against the Legacy Parkway, which temporarily halted construction of the Davis County road project.
The divide was widened in January 2005 after Anderson's State of the City address, during which he blasted Davis County commuters for pumping pollution into the air by driving to Salt Lake City.
"We want our friends from the north to come to Salt Lake City; we just don't want them to increase our city's traffic, further foul our air, undermine the quality of our lives and make us sick simply because of the choices they make about where they live and how they get around," Anderson said during the speech.
Anderson later apologized for the comments, saying they weren't directed at Davis County commuters but at proponents of Legacy.
It was clear Wednesday that not all has been forgiven, at least not on the part of Davis officials. When told that Becker would be making a visit to the meeting, Layton Mayor Steve Curtis quipped, "Does he know we're a hostile environment?"
Becker, too, referenced the rift during his visit, assuring the group that "we really do want Davis County residents and elected officials to feel welcome here."
Perhaps as a peace offering, Becker offered the resources and expertise of Salt Lake City's 3,000-member staff to assist Davis County and its cities when needed.
"One of the benefits of a bigger city like Salt Lake City is we have staff with expertise in a variety of areas," he said. "If there are things we can do to be of assistance, I really hope you'll call on us to help you."
Becker plans to attend the Davis County COG's next meeting in February in West Bountiful to discuss issues of regional interest that will be addressed at the upcoming state legislative session.
"I think there will be some items that we will very much have in common to work on," he said.
Becker also told Davis leaders that he's no stranger to Davis County. His environmental planning firm Bear West merged with The Shipley Group Inc. of Woods Cross, and he commuted from Salt Lake City to Woods Cross for his final year there. In addition, Becker's son was a gymnast and trained in Woods Cross."For 10 years, I was going up there twice a day," he said. "I know what that commute is like."
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