Field of 23 interim mayoral candidates prepare for interviews with St. George City Council

The City Council chambers at City Hall in St. George, Utah, Dec. 16 2020 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George City Council will interview 23 candidates who wish to fill the vacant mayor’s seat Tuesday, after which they they will vote for an interim mayor.

The position came available Jan. 5, when Mayor Jon Pike stepped down to take a position in Gov. Spencer Cox’s cabinet. The field of 23 mayoral candidates — which includes veteran public officials and newcomers — is as varied as the St. George terrain.

What follows is a snapshot of each candidate, includes some of their qualifications and thoughts gleaned from their applications.

Daniel McArthur

Perhaps the most unexpected application came from Daniel McArthur, a former mayor of St. George for 30 years before serving in Mexico. The list of projects that he was involved in during those three decades is extensive and includes the Dixie Center, development of Riverside Drive, Snow Canyon Parkway and SunTran public transportation.

“I know I will be able to step right in, making it so that the council does not miss a beat to continue service to this great city,” McArthur said in his application. “I was able to serve during the population growth from 29,000 to more than 80,000 when I left to serve in Mexico for three years. I would dearly love to serve with you this year.”

Jimmie Hughes

St. George city recorder Christina Fernandez administers the oath of office to freshmen council members Danielle Larkin and Gregg McArthur, joined by incumbent councilmember Jimmie Hughes (center) during their swearing in ceremony, St. George, Utah, Jan. 6, 2020 | Photo by David Cordero, St. George News

Another familiar face, Councilman and Mayor Tempore Jimmie Hughes, also wants to be interim mayor and isn’t shy about expressing his intention to run for mayor in November. In addition to his duties as a council member, Hughes is also the owner and funeral director at Hughes Mortuary. He’s been doing both since 2011.

“I am interested in serving as mayor of St. George for the same reason I serve on the city council,” Hughes said. “To give back to the place that has given me so much. I understand and respect the role of the council in the affairs and pledge to work with each of the council members as duly elected representatives of the people.”

Michele Randall

Councilwoman and former owner of Dixie Ambulance Service Michele Randall has served on the City Council for seven years. She’s a board member of Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic and Washington County Solid Waste. She’s also on the board of directors at Shade Tree and Beautification and St. George Musical Theater.

L-R: In this 2018 file photo, Michele Randall and Joe Bowcutt are sworn in as they begin second terms on the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan. 2, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“This job is hard, and we will never make everyone happy,” Randall said. “But we do the best we can. I am at a place in my life that I have the time to put in the long hours each of us know the job requires. As we continue to grow, I want to maintain the Dixie Spirit we have that is inviting, charitable and kind, where everyone feels at home.”

Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell, who has worked for many high-profile medical technology companies like Align Technologies, Cook Medical, Inc. and Angiodynamics, Inc, said that he has little political experience but knows how to lead.

“I am a seasoned leader,” he said. “I have been exposed to, and interacted with, many forms of government. I know the good and the bad, including how to manage and mentor people to maximize their potential.”

Auston Hafen

Auston Hafen is a staffing specialist at Express Employment, as well as a cannon crew-member in the Utah National Guard. Hafen said that his sincerity and communication skills make up for his lack of experience in the political arena.

“I believe a good mayor must be able to act accordingly,” he said. “As an eight-year member of the Utah National Guard, I know what it means to be patriotic, and what it means to love our country and local communities.”

Dustin Cox

Owner and manager at Affordable Storage in Hurricane, Dustin Cox said that St. George is unique and needs to be respected and preserved in order to give a better future to our children.

“I am increasingly concerned about the stability of our nation, mostly for my children’s sake and future generations,” Cox said. “When I heard of this opportunity, I thought I would like the chance to do what I can to serve the public and benefit everyone in the community.”

Michael Eagar

Leeds native Michael “Mike” Eagar graduated from Dixie High School before joining the Utah National Guard. A certified peace officer and an award-winning sharpshooter, Eager also helped locate and develop the deep well in West Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park and helped build the first fire station in Santa Clara.

Eagar said he’s “passionate about St. George” and hopes to “provide much-needed leadership, motivation, and wisdom.”

Robert Kirkwood

Richard Kirkwood earned his master’s degree in public administration from BYU. Having served as city manager for a number of communities — including Woodland, California; Bothell, Washington; and Roy City, Utah — Kirkwood is currently a public policy and city management consultant.

“I believe that in order to make a difference, we must be willing to think and act with courage, respect, commitment,” he said. “Government service must not be for personal gain, and is the greatest call that could ever be answered.”

Robert Klarich

A Michigan native, Robert Klarich moved to St. George in 2007 after working for 36 years in the U.S. Forest Service as a firefighter and a land specialist. Previously, Klarich said he served as a specialist on atomic bombs in the U.S. Army. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics.

“This is no longer the town of 1990, with a few thousand residents,” Klarich said. “It is a city getting much bigger day by day… I’m a bit old (74), but I think I have a bit of wisdom to lend as short-term mayor.”

Ron Woodbury

Ron Woodbury worked for Altura Credit Union for 25 years, during which time he held a variety of executive management positions. He led an information technology department with an annual budget of $4.5 million. He’s serving his second year as a member of the St. George Arts Commission and is the designated incoming chairperson.

“My experience in corporate settings, consulting, foundations, commissions, and nonprofits has prepared me to be our city’s mayor,” Woodbury said.

George F. Whitehead

Former director of development at Dixie Technical College, George F. Whitehead said that St. George has had a significant impact upon his life.

“I have always had a strong desire to serve in our city government, just as my great grandfather did while serving as mayor decades ago,” he said. “I now have the time, leadership experience, and a wealth of wisdom that will team perfectly with the city council.”

Laura C. Bean

Laura C. Bean is a hypnotherapist with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from BYU. She said she would like to emulate former Mayor McArthur.

“Relationships are special to me” Bean said. “I would consider being mayor as a relationship with every single one of my constituents.”

Joshua Dutson

A single dad and a veteran of the U.S. Army, Joshua Dutson said he wants to “lead by example.” Dutson, who holds various IT certifications and works at InfoWest Inc., said he wants to “not only be welcoming to new residents and businesses, but also preserve our local history.”

Katheryne Novick

Katheryne Novick is a videographer, producer and editor. She also volunteers as a receptionist for Switchpoint.

“If I’m selected, I would be the youngest mayor in Utah,” Novick said. “I would like to bring the people of St. George together, and welcome them to participate in St. George’s restoration and further efforts to help middle- and lower-class members of this city.”

Darin Orton

Business owner Darin Orton said that, if elected, he would “help strengthen and solidify St. George’s historic traditions and customs; foster economic development with pro-business policies that will encourage preferred employers to invest in our community; encourage and allow prominent members of the community to participate and contribute to our success through meaningful service opportunities; and, where possible, get out of the way and let the talented city administrators and employees do the job they were hired to do.”

Gregory Aldred

General contractor Gregory Aldred emphasized honesty, integrity, and respect as qualities the office of mayor deserves. In the past, he’s been president of Dixie Sunshiners, Red Rock Rotary and the H.V. Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not here to change anything,” he said. “I will keep us unified as we move through these trying times.”

Craig Seegmiller

Craig Seegmiller is a professor of mathematics at Dixie State College. Segmiller has served for 20 years on the Washington County School Board and eight years on the Dixie Applied Technology College Board.

“I believe I have the background and experience to be able to serve effectively,” he said.

Brock Soper

Brock Soper, programmer analyst for Washington City, said that he advocates for small-government policies, economic growth, small businesses, education and helping the less fortunate through service.

“It’s vitally important that a mayor uphold the United States Constitution and the city’s governing ordinances,” he said. “And I will be very vigilant about sticking to them as I serve the citizens of St. George.”

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is department director at Sentry Data Systems. Smith complimented Mayor Pike for being “present and listening.”

“I want to contribute to this community, help to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all residences, be involved in its growth, and pursue solutions to our community’s needs,” Smith said.

Sidney Stoker

Sidney Stoker, an administrative assistant at Advanced Health Care, said she wants to be mayor because of her love for St. George and her passion for serving others.

“I hope to encourage young people to be interested in speaking up for what they believe,” she said. “As mayor, you must love what you do, and have a moral compass to do what is right.”

Pete Rognli

Utah program manager at The Wildland Trekking Company Pete Rognli said he admires Jon Pike’s commitment to equity, inclusivity and commitment to listening to diverse voices.

“I am hopeful that the next mayor will recognize quality of life as the city’s greatest asset, and consider its greatest potential as a place that preserves access to clean air and open spaces, while growing in a responsible manner,” Rognli said.

Katherine Tolman

Katherine Tolman is an office manager at the Diabetes & Wound Care Clinic, in St. George. A former customer service representative/utility clerk at the City of St. George, Tolman counts the way former mayors treated her daughters at Heritage Days among her reasons for wanting to be mayor.

“I’m not politically minded,” Tolman said. “But I do care about the heritage, the growth of our city, and I understand that both need to be balanced.”

Fred C. Graham

Retired teacher and missionary Fred C. Graham said that as St. George transitions from coronavirus, extreme government and social unrest and the influx of new residents, Graham said the city needs an interim mayor who is an active listener.

“St. George needs an interim mayor who understands such problems and can listen to their exponents,” Graham said. “Not a mayor who wants to establish new policies, or adopt new technologies.”

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