SANTA CLARA — Three candidates will vie for two open city council seats in the City of Santa Clara’s municipal elections in November: newcomers Gary Allred and Ken Sizemore and incumbent Jerry Amundsen. Incumbent Rick Rosenberg is on the ballot for mayor and will run uncontested.
First-time candidacy has brought with it its share of challenges for Allred. He said he was disappointed with one local publication for having announced Sizemore’s candidacy before the registration period had ended, thus failing to mention his and Amundsen’s candidacies, which had yet to be filed with the City Recorder.
His experience as a small business owner equips him for a position on city council, Allred said.
Sizemore is the other first-time candidate. He is making the run after his retirement from a long career in regional planning with the Five County Association of Governments. For 20 years he served as director of community and economic development for the organization, and served for seven more years as its executive director. Santa Clara was one of 36 Southern Utah municipalities that he served in that capacity, Sizemore said.
In addition, Sizemore worked with Mayor Rosenberg as a member of the Vision Dixie implementation committee.
“I’m not running for office to change things so much as I am running for office because I was asked to,” Sizemore said.
Amundsen has served on city council for seven years and earns a living as a civil engineer, as does Rosenberg. The city saves money by having engineers on city council and in the mayor’s office because it doesn’t need to have an engineering consultant on staff, Amundsen said.
Amundsen’s expertise is in roadway construction and repair. Everyone on the current city council “seems to have kind of a specialty and we all work together,” he said. “There’s no one that really outshines anybody else.”
Contending with the forces of nature
In his 2 1/2 terms in office as mayor, Santa Clara’s greatest challenge has been a series of three flooding events, Rosenberg said, especially the one that inundated the city last Sept. 11.
That flood “took out the heart of our commercial district,” as well as damaging over 60 homes, Rosenberg said.
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency only provided relief for damage on public property, with residents having to rely instead on support from the community, he said.
The city did as good a job at responding to the disaster as it could have, said longtime Santa Clara resident Rita Harroun, 75.
Earlier this month, the city finished reconstruction of the dam at Laub Pond.
Searching for revenue sources
“The challenge for communities like Santa Clara has always been tax base,” Sizemore said.
Revenue has dropped since the recession hit, Rosenberg said, but “things are coming back the other way.”
Having seen about a 30 percent population increase since 2000, the city’s revenue stream has benefited from residential development and accompanying property taxes.
But Allred said he thinks that the city needs to be more proactive in seeking revenue sources by means of commercial growth. Reliance on raising revenue through residential development places too much of the tax burden on homeowners, he said.
Moreover, the city’s current development plan calls for “commercial nodes in strategic locations,” Sizemore said. The city could benefit from becoming more involved with the Washington County Economic Development Council, he said.
The largest plan for future development remains on hold for the time being. Harmons Grocery Stores owns a section of land in Santa Clara, on which the Utah company plans to build a complex that will, in addition to a grocery store, include other adjoining businesses.
City residents await the company’s move forward on the project, Amundsen said. But beyond this development, he does not foresee a departure from the city’s current condition as a quiet community devoid of the trappings of a commercial center.
Allred, however, said that the Harmons development, is “a very big jump.” He said that he would like to see the advent of some “medium-sized” businesses in the meantime. He also sees a particular need for development in the land across the street from the Jacob Hamblin House. He envisions a hotel, restaurant, strip mall, and gas station. “It would be a good complement to what’s already there,” Allred said.
Harroun said she is skeptical of the need to raise revenue to provide funding for a great deal of the city’s projects. A lot of beautification initiatives are unnecessary, she said.
In recent years, such projects have included the construction of an extravagant new city hall building and the $10 million renovation of the streetscape downtown along Santa Clara Drive.
She likes the way the streetscape looks, Harroun said, but is not sure that the timing was right for the renovation.
The streetscape renovation is “more attractive than usable,” Gordon Bone, owner of Elegance N Rust on Santa Clara Drive, said. In particular, he expressed frustration with the addition of a turning lane, which reduced the availability of parking near his business.
But Amundsen said that the turning lane onto Chapel Street was necessary because the city’s master plan designates that road as a main thoroughfare that will cross the river and access new development on the south side of the city.
A call for community leadership
I don’t think anyone wants to be mayor, Rosenberg said, laughing. But he said that another reason why no one is running against him may be that residents feel that the city is being run well already.
“I’ve had people tell me I’m doing a pretty good job,” the mayor said. “They’re really happy with things.”
Rosenberg’s specialty in hydraulics and floodplain analysis has come into play in handling the city’s flood disasters.”I really like doing the job. It’s close enough to what I do for a living,” he said.
But, if another citizen had decided to run and was qualified for the job, he would have considered not seeking another mayoral term. “I’d like to see somebody step up,” Rosenberg said.
But seeing no other residents register their candidacy during the first several days of the registration period, Rosenberg believed it to be best for the city that he stay in office.
“It’s a little bit of a disservice to the mayor,” Allred said, “that someone doesn’t step up to take his place.” He said that he himself would consider running for mayor in the future.
“I think it’s incumbent on anyone to participate in local government as much as possible,” Sizemore said.
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