OGDEN -- Mayoral candidates Brandon Stephenson and Mike Caldwell are both confident their government, professional and leadership experiences will enable them to lead Ogden along a trajectory as a city on the rise.
Stephenson, 42, concluding his second term on the city council, and Caldwell, 40, Weber County's public information officer and manager of the Weber County Ice Sheet, face each other in the Nov. 8 general election.
Stephenson is corporate control manager for J.M. Thomas Forest Products, in charge of the company's human resources, information technology and accounting. He said he has the ability to build on the city's successes, particularly in economic development.
"I'm an implementer," he said. "I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel. I'm very interested in the tried-and-true."
Stephenson said his city council experience has provided insight into budgeting, business recruitment, land use and zoning issues, making him more qualified to lead the city than Caldwell, who has never held an elected office.
"My experience is better balanced," said Stephenson, who also has a master's degree in business administration from Weber State University. "Mike's focus is on tourism, public relations and events."
But Caldwell countered that even though Stephenson has served on the city council, he's never held leadership roles as the council's chairman or vice chairman.
Caldwell believes his broad experience as former chairman of the Ogden Convention and Visitor's Bureau, executive director of the GOAL Foundation and current manager for Weber County RAMP Grant program makes him the best choice.
"I can sell Ogden's story," he said.
Stephenson said as mayor he would spend some of his first two months in office meeting with city department heads, employees, city council and other entities to set goals while simultaneously managing the day-to-day affairs of the municipality.
Stephenson vowed not to make any major staffing changes immediately, but said he would evaluate managers to ensure they are onboard with the objectives of his administration.
One primary focus would be to bring new jobs to Ogden to provide more employment opportunities for residents and bolster the local tax base.
In addition to building on Ogden's success in attracting outdoor recreation equipment companies, Stephenson would diversify recruitment efforts to focus on technology and aerospace companies.
"It's a matter of targeting areas around the country that, for example, have a higher cost of living and a higher cost of doing business and attracting them to Ogden," he said. "It would also involve targeting supply chain companies that have customers in Ogden."
Ogden-Hinckley Airport is under-utilized and is ripe to serve several aerospace firms, he said.
Stephenson's economic development goals also include attracting more retail businesses, such as apparel stores and a bookstore, to The Junction complex and along the east side of Washington Boulevard.
Stephenson also envisions big box retailers setting up shop along the 12th Street and Wall Avenue corridors to compete with stores in Riverdale and Layton.
The infusion of additional retail provides more local shopping opportunities for Ogden residents and would provide needed sales and property tax revenues that could be used for revitalization efforts in blighted neighborhoods, said Stephenson.
Caldwell said he would spend his first three months in office getting to know the city's various department heads to determine the challenges they face and to foster teamwork and cooperation.
He also wants to the city to continue to work closely with the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah to achieve his goal of bringing at least 3,000 new jobs to the downtown area over four years
Caldwell vowed to work with existing businesses to expand and hire more employees and also look at making the city an appealing environment in order to attract new companies.
He also aims to increase tourism-related revenue by 25 percent during his first term. "It is one of the easiest ways to bring new revenue into the community," he said.
Stephenson, who described himself as fiscally conservative, said he would cooperate with the city council to correct disparity in Ogden's water rates, lower property taxes and pay off $13 million in general obligation debt by 2016.
Caldwell said he would work closely with police to increase fines for illegal graffiti in connection with the city's injunction against the Trece street gang.
Increasing fines for tagging may not be a new idea but it is appropriate to improve quality of life in the city, Caldwell said.
"We want the best practices in Ogden," he said. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel."
Caldwell also proposes establishing community councils made up of residents from neighborhoods throughout the city who would offer recommendations on crime prevention, street and sidewalk improvements and other topics.
Caldwell said he would establish clear-cut goals for his administration and allow staff members freedom to achieve objectives while holding them accountable.
"You need to give people personal ownership," he said.
Caldwell also promised to keep lines of communication open so that the city council has plenty of time to review proposals from the administration.
Caldwell said he is pleased with his fund-raising that has brought in $65,063 in contributions compared to Stephenson's $21,340, based on the latest finance reports filed with the city. "It's broad-based community support that I'm very, very proud of," he said.
Stephenson said he isn't concerned about the disparity in contributions. "I have what I need," he said. "I'm fiscally responsible with my campaigning."
Patrick Conlin, who is registered as a write-in candidate for mayor, said he isn't actively campaigning and is endorsing Caldwell.