NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden officials’ call for applicants to take over as the city’s mayor, spurred by Brent Taylor’s death last month, has drawn five hopefuls.
They include Brent Chugg, tabbed to temporarily serve as mayor when Taylor left last January. The others are:
Sean Casey, part of a contingent of residents who have clamored against construction of the city’s new amphitheater;
Julie Anderson, who ran for North Ogden City Council last year;
Steven Huntsman, a former North Ogden City Council member; and
Janis Christensen, a member of the Weber School District Board of Education.
Applications were due Monday and the North Ogden City Council is scheduled to interview the candidates and pick a new mayor at the body’s Jan. 8 meeting. The new mayor would serve through 2019, while November 2019 municipal elections would serve to pick a mayor to serve out the final two years of Taylor’s term, 2020 and 2021.
Taylor, in his second term as mayor, died Nov. 3 near the end of his year-long deployment after a member of the Afghan military contingent he was helping train turned on him and attacked him. Chugg had been serving as mayor per state law that allows for a temporary replacement when the incumbent goes on military leave, but Taylor’s death now necessitates selection of a new mayor.
Chugg said he applied for the top municipal post to finish up some of the recent initiatives North Ogden leaders have started. He also cited a sense of allegiance to Taylor “to finish out the next year before elections,” he said.
Chugg has no plans to run for the last two years of Taylor’s term in 2019 elections if he’s tabbed to the spot, he said.
Casey said his aim as leader would be to promote “maximum freedom, minimal cost.”
He increased his involvement in city matters earlier this year as part of a contingent of residents who wanted to halt construction of the new amphitheater in Barker Park near their homes, charging it would disrupt the neighborhood. He and five other neighbors sued the city to stop the project, and though they ultimately dropped the case, he still has problems with the amphitheater and what he believes to be the flawed process leaders followed in approving the plans.
Now he also worries about restrictions city officials are thinking of implementing on what activities may take place at the amphitheater, potential censorship in Caseys’ view.
If tabbed, he would run for mayor in 2019 elections.
Huntsman owns industrial rental space and works as a consultant to airbag manufacturer Autoliv. He served a term as city councilman in the 2000s and said he decided to seek the mayoral spot at the prodding of friends and acquaintances.
He said he’s “budget conscious” and cited his wealth, which would give him leeway to handle mayoral duties without having to worry about generating day-to-day income. He would donate his pay as mayor to help support Taylor’s widow, Jennie Taylor, and the couple’s seven kids.
He would consider running in 2019 elections if the city council picks him.
Anderson regularly attends city council meetings, frequently offering her views during public comment sections, and unsuccessfully ran for a council post last year. She’s running partially in response to the controversial issues that have come to the fore in North Ogden, including the amphitheater project and proposed development of a mountain-crossing gondola linking North Ogden and Eden.
The city has spent a lot of money on the amphitheater project without a firm plan outlining its long-term operation, she said. She has big questions about the gondola plans and the broader proposal it’s part of to expand the Nordic Valley ski resort. The expansion, if fully completed, would make Nordic Valley capable of handling perhaps 11,000 visitors a day, but Anderson wonders if the city of North Ogden could handle that sort of traffic.
More generally, she said she’d offer a new perspective. “I think it’s time to put some fresh eyes on things,” said Anderson, a substitute teacher for the Weber School District.
She would run in 2019 if picked by the council.
Christensen, elected last November to her second term on the school board, said she’d like to help ease the tension caused by the controversial issues North Ogden faces, like the amphitheater and Nordic Valley projects. “I’ve lived here 45 years and I’ve never experienced the divisiveness that’s going on because of these projects,” she said.
Her son, Aaron Christensen, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit to halt the amphitheater project, but Janis Christensen didn’t take part in the legal action.
“What I have said is, it is a lovely construction (project), it has great potential, but it was put in the wrong place,” so close to homes, she said. Her husband, Allen Christensen, is a Utah state senator.
Janis Christensen would have to see how serving as mayor goes, if the council picks her, before deciding to run for the post in 2019 elections.