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Nadolski discusses challenges, successes of his first 6 months in mayor’s office

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 22, 2024

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

Ogden Mayor Ben Nadolski visits the Standard-Examiner to discuss his first six months in office Thursday, June 20, 2024.

OGDEN -- In a couple of short weeks, Ogden City Mayor Ben Nadolski will be exactly six months removed from his inauguration day.

But while it may seem like a short amount of time to some, the new city leader says it's been a busy and challenging six months in the mayor's office, to say the least. However, Nadolski also reports it's been rewarding to see a change in culture taking place before his eyes.

Cultural shift

In a visit to the Standard-Examiner office Thursday, Nadolski said one of the biggest accomplishments the city has made since he assumed his new role isn't a new ordinance or piece of infrastructure, but rather shifting how the city interacts with the public, especially on heated issues.

"We have done a really good job of lowering the temperature on controversial issues," he said. "That's not by accident. We put really deliberate effort into engaging with people that have disagreed in the past to really get to the heart of the issues and to build real, genuine communication and relationships. I think that is a win that maybe most people don't recognize."

He said an example of this is how the city has interacted with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, advocates for Union Station and private hangar owners at Ogden-Hinckley Airport since his administration took over.

"With the wildlife center, it was hard because real peoples' life work was impacted," he said. "What we do is important, but it is also important how we do it, and I think they experienced a difference of how we work as an administration and I think they appreciated it, even though they didn't agree with every decision made. (To) that, I credit a lot of grace from them as well."

Grace was a quality the mayor also said has been exhibited by those leasing hangars at the airport, who in recent years have been angered by perceived efforts by the city to force them out or ignore their investments.

About plans to renovate Union Station and transform surrounding land, Nadolski called it "a generational responsibility of this administration to make sure we do it the right way. That's probably going to be one of the most important projects I work on throughout my entire tenure. I don't want it to be something we fight about; I want it to be something that we all fight for."

This cultural shift hasn't been confined to interactions with the public, Nadolski claimed.

"We put a lot of effort into culture in the city, in the workforce," he said. "The culture in which our staff work in is really important to me. It's an important role of a mayor and a leader to make sure we're creating an environment that they can succeed in. When our staff succeed, the city succeeds."

That the culture shift, he added, has led to some interesting feedback.

"People come to me and say, 'You said you were going to do that, and then you did it,'" he said. "I said, 'I said I would, so I did. I don't understand why you're so surprised.' It goes back to the mistrust that people have in elected officials."

Homelessness

Nadolski also touched on homelessness during his visit to the Standard-Examiner, saying it's one of the most complex issues to tackle.

"All communities are under a lot of pressure from a lot of macroeconomic issues too," he said. "To think that we can solve it overnight, I think, is thinking in error."

However, he said that he and city staff are committed to efforts to reduce homelessness both in Ogden and beyond.

"I am really proud of the approach that the city takes," he said. "I'm engaged at the state level. When I started the job, statutorily, I was on the Statewide Homeless Coordinating Council. The statute changed during the legislative session when I first started, and now there's a local homeless shelter committee that the mayors of those cities sit on, so now I'm on that and we are involved with the bigger statewide council."

Housing

With only 7% of the land in Ogden open for development and prices remaining high, housing has proven another complicated issue, according to Nadolski.

"If we think that we can solve housing issues in Ogden by ourselves, we're fooling ourselves," he said. "This is an issue of scale that the city doesn't have the resources -- or the authority, power and leverage -- to solve alone. I immediately got engaged at the state level during my first legislative session on the issue of housing and have remained engaged on the issue. We've got a really good collaboration and a lot of discussions happening with the governor's council on homeownership and housing."

Nadolski said one of his desires is to expand the availability of all types of housing, as made evident by his recently unveiled proposal to refocus zoning ordinances in the city.

"When you pack one housing type into one place, it creates instability and it doesn't create a healthy community," he said. "My perspective on housing is we need to have a mix of housing types across a spectrum of affordability, but we want to make sure that we're tracking quantitatively on what types of housing we have and level of affordability we have so that we can make sure we have an even mix across that spectrum."

What's next?

The work of city government won't be taking a break for the summer.

Nadolski said there's a lot that will happen in the next three months, including:

  • Finalization of his first municipal budget as mayor.
  • Finalization of details around the replacement of the 1935 culinary water pipeline feeding Ogden.
  • Meetings on the General Plan and Union Station project.
  • A final announcement on Salt Lake City's bid for the 2034 Winter Olympics that will help solidify the role Ogden will play in the games.

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