RIVERDALE — A longtime Northern Utah municipal administrator, most recently serving as the Riverdale city administrator, has died, surprising and saddening those who worked with him.
Rodger Worthen, who had worked as the Riverdale city administrator since 2014, died Sunday after a five-month battle with acute myloid leukemia, according to Mayor Norm Searle. He had seemed to be getting the better of the ailment, but his condition took an unexpected turn for the worse early this month.
“He was doing exceptionally well. We just never expected this,” Searle said Monday.
Before taking the Riverdale post, Worthen served as the South Weber city manager and Syracuse city administrator, holding municipal posts for about 21 years in all. He was 57 and leaves behind a wife and several children, according to Steve Brooks, Riverdale’s city attorney and the acting city administrator.
“He’s just really an awesome guy,” Searle said.
Like Searle, Brooks said the death came as a surprise, even though Worthen’s city colleagues knew he was battling leukemia. “We’re pretty much in a state of shock because we thought he would be coming back and he didn’t make it,” Brooks said.
Doug Gibson, who served a mission with Worthen to Peru in the early 1980s with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lamented the passing. Worthen had recently made a return trip to Peru and Gibson, of Ogden, met up with him in Utah after that.
His “last cherished memory with him was having lunch when he was back and looking through his photos of the trip and seeing him with so many people we had known in 1983,” Gibson said. “He just cared about people.”
Searle cited Worthen’s ability to get answers quickly to questions on municipal matters. Worthen had recently moved from Syracuse and was living in Clinton.
“I don’t think he and I ever had a disagreement. We got along so well,” Searle said. “He’s very important to what we do. We’re going to really miss him.”
Brooks cited the trust Worthen put in his colleagues at Riverdale City Hall. “We just looked at him as our friend. He let us do our jobs. He encouraged us,” Brooks said.
Riverdale, with all the big box stores and other commercial outlets along Riverdale Road, is a busy retail hub in Weber County. But with only 8,800 residents, the city administration is small, with every city staffer a vital part of the city bureaucracy, according to Searle. As such, city officials will seek out a new administrator, probably starting conversations this week on how to go about the process, Brooks said.
Perhaps the most controversial issue to emerge in Riverdale in recent years was the landslide that came to light in late 2017, threatening fours home atop a bluff in the city and forcing their occupants to evacuate. The owners of three of those homes and the land below the bluff where the houses are located sued Riverdale, pointing their fingers at Riverdale and leaks in the city’s water system. The city has denied any wrongdoing and the case is winding its way through 2nd District Court in Ogden.
On another front, the city last year launched a unique firefighting initiative with South Ogden to the east to better coordinate firefighting efforts in the two cities and pool resources. Though the fire department heads spearheaded the initiative, city administrators and other leaders were also involved.