RIVERDALE -- When he's not conducting a city council meeting, attending a ribbon cutting or making plans for other business in the city of Riverdale, Mayor Bruce Burrows is helping terminally ill patients find peace through faith and prayer.
Like many politicians, Burrows, 67, wears two hats. He has served as mayor of Riverdale for the past 12 years. Before that, he served eight years on the city council. He also works as a chaplain for Curo Hospice. The two jobs are perfect he said, because each allows him to be flexible so he can do his best in both capacities.
Burrows has decided not to run for re-election this year, but will continue his work in the hospice field.
"I did not start out to be a 'career politician' and I am a firm believer that there are good quality people in our community that can and should have the same chance to guide the city that I have had," he said. "I am proud to have had that opportunity for a while and feel the city is going in the right direction. But I believe we need to see what new ideas can come from other leadership."
During his tenure, Riverdale has grown enormously. The city has virtually no debt and is at or near the maximum allowable by law in its rainy day fund.
"We have very little serious crime and a fantastic group of employees that are dedicated to our citizens," he said. "It is one of the things I have stressed about the most since becoming mayor. Excellent customer service. It is not always possible to make people happy but we can at least listen to their concerns with respect and help them as much as possible to a good solution."
Burrows said the city has a west bench he hopes to see developed into a hub for high paying jobs that will ensure the strong future for the city. The city has paved the way for that to happen but is waiting for the right developer. In addition, Burrows said he hopes to see the property south of the civic center be turned into a great gathering place for the community.
"I hope to see play fields, open space and enhancements to the pristine areas by the river," he said.
As a hospice chaplain, Burrows said his service is non-denominational as he serves a wide variety of faiths and even no faith at all. He has had patients from most of the major world religions.
"Most people want to know their lives have been worthwhile and have meant something to those they love," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction at helping people get back to their heavenly home. I am part of a team of 'Midwives to Eternity.'"
Burrows said he could go on for hours talking about his experiences in hospice work, but two of his stories include a gentleman who decided he wanted to learn how to pray and a 94-year-old woman who said she hopes her husband won't blab her sins.
"I was visiting one day and she made a comment about not being sure if she could make it into heaven," he said. "She gave me one of my favorite quotes: 'I hope when my life is over it is like a snowflake that leaves a mark, but not a stain.' I said, 'Oh Edna, I can't imagine you would have done anything that would keep you out of heaven,' to which she answered, 'Well my husband died first and he knew a few things and if he doesn't keep his mouth shut I may never get into heaven.'"
Burrows was born in Utah County and moved to Ogden at the age of 13. He attended Mt. Ogden Junior High School, Ogden High School and Weber State University. He worked for Utah Power and Light for 23 years as a draftsman and later took a job at Curo Hospice. He said if he had one piece of advice for people, it would be to listen to their older family members.
"Really listen and talk to them about their experiences they have had in life," he said. "Record it, video it, share it with everyone you can. They say so many wonderful things and sometimes we just pass it off as the ramblings of an old person."
And don't be afraid of the word hospice.
"It comes from the same root word as hospital and hospitality," Burrows said. "The modern hospice companies work very hard to make terminally ill patients more comfortable and improve the quality of life for whatever time they have left. The national average is that people live longer and better on hospice service than without."