After 12 years in city government, Robert D. Palmquist decided he had a thing or two to say on the subject.
In fact, Palmquist, the former mayor of North Salt Lake, was awarded his doctorate last year and wrote his dissertation on budgets and budget procedures of 60 small cities and towns in Utah."I found that the size of a city council and its composition _ the sex, age and religion of the council members _ has nothing to do with the way they spend their city's money," he said.
"Rather, the city's location is the key _ whether it is isolated, a suburb of a big city or in a group of small cities. Suburbs didn't have to spend a lot of money for recreation, for instance, because the people who live in suburbs can go to the nearby big city for entertainment.
"Isolated cities have to provide medical facilities, recreation and other things for their citizens because there are no big cities around. And when several small cities are located near each other they can provide a lot by working together and pooling their resources."
He started working on a doctorate at the University of Utah in 1977, and, when he left office, he worked full time on his studies and also taught political science at the U. By the time he was awarded his doctorate in 1988, Palmquist already had earned two master's degrees, one in school administration he had earned while serving in the U.S. Air Force and another in public administration from the U. in 1981.
A robust, tanned 59, Palmquist says he doesn't want to be retired and would like to teach political science in a college or university, but he doesn't want to leave North Salt Lake, he says, so he is hoping to find a college teaching challenge in the Salt Lake area.
Palmquist, who served two years on the North Salt Lake Planning Commission, was elected to the City Council for a two-year term in 1975 and was elected mayor in 1977 and again in 1981. He chose not to run again and left office at the end of his term in December 1985.
But Palmquist left his mark, and citizens were enshrined his memory by naming a city park after him. Palmquist Park is about a block away from Palmquist's home on 350 East Street.
Tales of Palmquist's stint in public life barely scratches the surface of the life of the man, who is a retired Air Force pilot with 1,300 combat flying hours from two wars.
A native of Murray, Palmquist graduated from Murray High School in 1947. He earned a degree in elementary education at the U. in 1950. He spent three months teaching at Monroe School in Granger in the Granite School District before he joined the Air Force during the Korean War in 1950.
Once in the service, Palmquist graduated from officers' candidate school and became a B26 bomber pilot, flying low-level night bombing missions during the war. Afterward, he stayed in the service and flew KC97 and KC135 tankers all over the world, refueling jet fighters in the skies over Canada, Alaska, the Far East and Europe.
During the Vietnam War, he flew AC47 gunships, known as Puff the Magic Dragons. Toward the end of the war, Palmquist was sent to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was an adviser to the faculty of the Army Command and General Staff College.
He came to Hill Air Force Base in 1971 as a special projects officer helping to provide Utah's public schools with Air Force training materials.
When he ended his Air Force career in 1974 as a lieutenant colonel, he had 24 years service and had a total of 8,000 flying hours.
"I never flew a private plane and don't really have any interest in doing that," Palmquist said. "I'm happy now to let others fly while I relax."
He and his wife, Shirley, who is in charge of retirement accounts at First Federal Savings & Loan in Salt Lake City, have three grown children and 13 grandchildren.
"We've traveled all over. We love it," Palmquist said. "We have been to Europe twice in the past few years and all over the United States. And we've had a few cruises, too."
The former mayor enjoys reading history and biographies and intends, he says, to write a book this year about small cities, what makes them tick and how they can be more efficient.
"Everyone in a city can get involved in city government in some way. They will be helping themselves and their city by doing so," he said.
Palmquist said he liked being mayor. "There were a lot of tough moments. You can't always please everyone. But I got a lot of satisfaction out of being mayor.
"I play golf with the city's present mayor, Jake Simmons, and I especially enjoy not being mayor when he tells me about the tough spots he's been in since being elected."