3 years in, Hildale City Council continues to restore community trust, improve meeting efficiency

Hildale City Council and staff conduct the business of the town in a meeting, Hildale, Utah, April 7, 2021 Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

HILDALE — The semimonthly meeting of the Hildale City Council on Wednesday night gave citizens a look at how far the council has come in the three years since everything changed.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop (center) listens to discussion with council members Jerod Nicol (left) and Maha Layton (right) at a meeting, Hildale, Utah, April 7, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

When Mayor Donia Jessop and council members Maha Layton, Jared Nicol and JVar Dutson took their oaths of office in January 2018, the event marked a turning point in the history of the council. The four elected officials assumed municipal positions that were previously held by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As previously reported by St. George News, the election was the first time in Hildale’s history that non-FLDS candidates, two of whom are not only ex-FLDS but also women, were elected to sit on the council.

In her office Wednesday evening after the meeting, Mayor Jessop told St. George News that the transition to a new council was fairly rocky at first.

“It’s taken us a little bit to get our feet under us,” Jessop said. “The entire staff walked out on us. They walked out and we had them replaced within six weeks. When you don’t have a lot of training in, then you get to learn by hard knocks.”

Jessop credited new city administrator Eric Duthie for bringing a style of organization and management that has helped guide the council onto the right path.

“I feel like we’re on our feet and Eric being here has really helped us,” Jessop said. “We have come a long way; and with Eric being there, it was just the next step in taking care of business and being professional.” 

One significant change in conducting the town’s business occurred Wednesday night when the council voted unanimously to put a time limit on its meetings.

Meetings can only go beyond 9:30 p.m. with a supermajority, or two-thirds, vote by council. Further, the council instituted a practice of putting specific time limits for discussion on each agenda item.

“We had some meetings go pretty late,” Jessop said. “We had one go past midnight. When you’re exhausted your brain stops working at night. So we were all hoping to keep it short and simple and sweet, and it has worked really well.”

(L-R): Council members, Stacy Seay, JVar Dutson, Jared Nicol, Mayor Donia Jessop, Maha Layton, Lawrence Barlow and administrator Eric Duthie at a meeting, Hildale, Utah, April 7, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Among other agenda items, the council discussed refinancing sewer revenue bonds. It also unanimously passed resolutions concerning interlocal cooperation agreement between Hildale and Washington County regarding election services and providing medical surge and event equipment.

When she took office three years ago, Jessop said she wanted to work on and improve relationships between the Hildale community and with the state. Three years into her tenure have seen significant progress in that regard.

“That has gone beautifully,” Jessop said. “Those relationships have been healed, repaired, created. The county and the state have just gone above the call of duty in reaching out and helping us with whatever we need.

“In education, in resources, just whatever they can do to help provide,” Jessop added. “It’s been a really good relationship.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!