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Riverdale City Council hopefuls put focus on helping city, giving constituents a voice

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 26, 2021

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There are four candidates for two seats on the Riverdale City Council. They are, clockwise from the upper left-hand corner, Anne Hansen, Bart Stevens, Jeffery Savage and Karina Merrill. Voting culminates Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

RIVERDALE — Four are vying for two seats coming open on the Riverdale City Council, an incumbent plus three others variously hoping to contribute to the city and make sure no one is ignored.

Bart Stevens, the lone incumbent, is seeking his second term. And with Brent Ellis, the other incumbent whose seat comes open, not running, the five-member City Council will get at least one new face.

Karina Merrill, embroiled in a legal dispute with the city stemming from a wedding operation she ran on the land around her home, got in the race as a protest of sorts against the poor treatment she says city leaders gave her over the matter. “I’ll be a leader that listens and that’s what I vow 100% to do,” she said. “I was completely ignored. I will not let anyone feel that same way.”

Anne Hansen got in the race owing to the strong connection she feels with the city. “I love Riverdale and believe in the importance of being involved in the community,” she said. She recently finished law school “and so now I have the time to participate.”

Jeffery Savage wants to give back to Riverdale. “Just finding a way to contribute,” he said.

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Bart Stevens is a candidate for Riverdale City Council in elections that culminate Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

The top two vote-getters when voting culminates on Nov. 2 will win seats. Riverdale is also in line to get a new mayor, Braden Mitchell, since Norm Searle, the incumbent, isn’t seeking reelection. Mitchell is the sole mayoral hopeful.

Here’s a look at the City Council hopefuls:

Bart Stevens: Stevens, who served in the U.S. Marines and Army Reserves, works in aircraft material management at Hill Air Force Base. A key priority for him is retaining first responders in Riverdale — police and firefighters.

He’s also focused on helping make sure the Riverdale Public Works Department has the resources it needs to maintain the city’s infrastructure and to improve on the city’s parks and the River Walkway.

High-density development, like apartments, worries him. “I am concerned about developers wanting to build numerous high-density rental apartment complexes in Riverdale,” he said.

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Karina Merrill is a candidate for Riverdale City Council in elections that culminate Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Karina Merrill: Merrill is making her first bid for public office, spurred by her dealings with the city over wedding receptions she had helped host on the expansive grounds of her home in the city. She faces two charges listed as class B misdemeanors in Riverdale Justice Court records over the matter — operating a business without a license and failure to obtain a building permit.

Merrill maintains that despite her efforts to comply with city guidance on resolving the dispute, city officials weren’t sufficiently helpful.

“My message is that I felt that our situation was completely mishandled and that we had nothing but doors slammed in our face in my attempts to resolve any of this,” she said. If elected, she’d make sure constituent concerns got due attention.

The legal dispute apparently stems from differing views over what sort of activity is allowed on her property, according to Merrill. She had hosted wedding receptions on her property for friends and family — at the center of the issue — and accepted donations to help cover her costs. She maintains she’s done nothing wrong.

Steve Brooks, the Riverdale city attorney, called her operation a “wedding reception business” and said her property isn’t zoned for the sort of activity she was hosting. He maintains that city reps reached out to Merrill on “numerous occasions” to try to resolve the matter before it went to court.

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Anne Hansen is a candidate for Riverdale City Council in elections that culminate Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021

City prosecutors filed charges on Sept. 19, 2019, and a bench trial is scheduled in the matter for next January.

Beyond the legal tussle, Merrill voiced support for less overreach from the government. “I believe in limited government involvement, fiscal competence and less regulation for small businesses,” she said.

Anne Hansen: Hansen, who served on the Riverdale Youth Council as a teen, currently works as a deputy attorney handling civil matters for the Box Elder County Attorney’s Office. She previously worked for the city of South Jordan, managing public works operations.

This is her first bid for elective office and she wants to be a helping hand as Riverdale grows and evolves. “My priority is to assist Riverdale as it continues to face unique challenges that require purposeful and creative solutions, and to maintain the successes that make Riverdale the best place to live!” she said in an email.

Another issue for Riverdale will be “maintaining momentum and continuity” as the leadership shifts in the city, she said, though she lauded city staffers.

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Jeffery Savage is a candidate for Riverdale City Council in elections that culminate Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

“Riverdale employees are experienced and have proven (able) in meeting the needs of the residents and the community. The new members of the council will be in good hands and will have a great opportunity to keep the city headed in a positive direction,” she said.

Jeffery Savage: Savage, making his first bid for public office, is a proposal analyst with Northrop Grumman.

As the city grows and evolves, he said he wants to make sure “the people aren’t forgotten with the progress,” he said.

Traffic, he said, is “always in issue” in Riverdale. Though city leaders have addressed some of the congestion problems, he thinks more focus needs to be put on road infrastructure in more residential areas around schools.


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