OGDEN -- Eight mayoral hopefuls pitched their platforms on economic development, transportation and many other issues Wednesday night to several hundred residents who attended a candidates forum at Union Station.
The event was sponsored by the Ogden Ethics Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes better ethics in city government.
Mayoral candidates who will square off in the Sept. 13 primary include Jonny Ballard, Mike Caldwell, Jason Goddard, Neil Hansen, Brandon Stephenson, John H. Thompson, Susan "Susie" Van Hooser and Steven Van Wagoner. The two top vote-getters will compete in the Nov. 8 general election.
Candidates were each given a minute to convince those in attendance why they should be the next mayor.
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Van Wagoner, a real estate agent and president of the Historic 25th Street Association, said he should be elected because he's skilled in business development, would promote products manufactured in Ogden and supports developing a comprehensive transportation plan for the city.
"We need someone to come in and hit the ground running," he said. "As the next mayor, I will work for everyone of you."
Van Hooser, a member of the city council, pledged that as mayor she would promote openness in government and develop successful relationships with various segments of the community. "We need public-private partnerships to get things done," she said.
Thompson, an employee with the Utah Office of Recovery Services, said as mayor he would carry out ordinances and projects approved by the city council. "The mayor works for the council and is the action guy," he said.
Stephenson, a city council member, said he's well-versed in both government and business. The focus of his administration as mayor, he said, would be to bring jobs to Ogden.
Hansen, a former state representative, said he should be elected mayor because he would treat the job as a public trust and would serve Ogden residents diligently.
Goddard, who owns Access Communication, told the crowd that as mayor he would bring new ideas to help the city improve economically and benefit residents. Among those ideas would be developing partnerships with Weber State University and Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College. "I would be a fresh face," he said.
Caldwell, director of the Ogden Ice Sheet and a spokesman for Weber County, said he would provide leadership to promote economic development while preserving the city's valuable open space and natural beauty. "There are many unique opportunities to provide results," he said.
Ballard, the city's community development manager, said that before joining the city he recruited companies in the private sector and has owned several businesses. He said those experiences qualify him to serve as mayor and would help him bring new jobs to Ogden. "I've spent a lot of time putting people to work," he said.
The candidates were asked a series of questions, such as their positions on a proposal floated in 2006 and 2007 to construct a gondola over the city from the Utah Transit Authority's Intermodal Hub at 24th Street and Wall Avenue to Weber State University on Harrison Boulevard.
A second gondola would have run from the university to a hillside resort once planned by developer Chris Peterson, son-in-law of Snowbasin owner Earl Holding.
All of the candidates said they would not support a gondola if the proposal were pitched again.
The candidates were divided on whether the city should forge ahead with a $160 million streetcar project to connect the Intermodal Hub with Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital. Hansen said he favors building a streetcar up 25th Street, and Van Hooser and Thompson indicated they also support examining the viability of the project.
Stephenson, Caldwell, Ballard and Goddard, however, said they are concerned about the cost to the city. Van Wagoner said he supports development of a comprehensive transportation plan that would address streetcars, buses and light rail.
All of the candidates said they support ethics and more transparency in government.
After the forum, several residents said the event helped them better determine who they will vote for in the primary. "It was good to hear from all of them," said Rosina Lettre, an Ogden resident who declined to reveal which candidate she is leaning toward.