Ogden mayoral race draws first hopeful as ’23 election cycle gets into gear
OGDEN — The 2023 political season is gearing up and the first hopeful for mayor of Ogden has publicly announced his bid to lead the city, with a second hopeful to announce her plans on Tuesday.
Taylor Knuth, a longtime community advocate in Ogden, announced Monday that he’s running to lead the city, in a bid to replace incumbent Mayor Mike Caldwell. Knuth has served on the Ogden Diversity Commission, advocated to rebuild the city-owned Marshall White Center and unsuccessfully ran for Ogden City Council in 2017.
“I’m running for mayor to ensure our city gets back to the basics — cultivating a vibrant community, focusing on creating meaningful connection with our neighbors and building the character in our young people,” he said, surrounded by supporters in front of the Marshall White Center. “For me, it’s the little things just as much as it is the big things, like investing millions of dollars in this building behind me.”
Caldwell, finishing his third term as mayor, didn’t respond to a query Monday about his plans this election cycle. But at least one other contender plans to run for the top city spot, Angel Castillo, another community advocate who unsuccessfully challenged Caldwell in 2019. Castillo plans to formally announce her candidacy for mayor on Tuesday, she said in a Facebook post.
Mayoral and other city posts will be up for grabs all across Weber County and the rest of Utah this year. Primaries, if necessary, will be held in August with the general election set for Nov. 7. City posts are nonpartisan positions.
Knuth, flanked by husband Sean Bishop and many other backers holding “Vote Taylor for Mayor” signs, made his announcement in the rain, he and his backers holding umbrellas to ward off the precipitation. He currently serves as deputy director in Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development and put a focus on his community service.
“For 12 years now, I’ve worked in both my personal and professional endeavors to build a more inclusive, sustainable and engaged city,” Knuth said.
Ogden City Council member Angela Choberka is a backer and she introduced Knuth. “He is someone I admire because he does so much more than talk about what should be done or tell other people what they should do. He does the work to make our community better,” she said.
Knuth previously served on the Ogden Diversity Commission, a volunteer body that advocates for the diverse array of people in the city, and has been a big advocate of replacing the Marshall White Center, a community center that serves the mid- and low-income neighborhoods around it. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he participated in efforts to bolster outreach and mask distribution to Latinos to help them weather the pandemic.
At the same time, he stressed the importance of promoting a sense of community in Ogden, creating connections and unity among the residents of the city. “Our next mayor needs to know the names of the barbers and the bartenders, the police officers and the postal workers, the school teachers and the service members. And they need to be just as comfortable talking to a constituent on their front porch as they are behind the pulpit — one of our community and never above them,” he said.
Of late, he’s noticed emergence of “different factions” in the city and “a lack of community engagement,” tendencies he hopes to counter. He demurred from commenting on the $240 million-plus WonderBlock downtown development proposal put forward by the Caldwell administration and focus of an Ogden City Council hearing on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to comment on any existing projects in the city because I have not been a part of their creation. But what I can do is commit to an administration in the next four to eight years that really values community engagement and values putting people back at the center of government,” he said.
He noted the poverty of his youth, raised largely by his mom. “This impoverished reality really taught me the value of hard work and discipline,” he said.