Mike Hill never expected to become mayor of Provo. But once he did, Hill relished the position like none other he'd had.

"It's not the ultimate job, but it comes darn close," he said. "If you didn't like it or didn't love it, this job could kill you."Hill handled work in the public eye with zest; it was his private life that proved to be his undoing.

So, with thoughts of what might have been, Hill leaves the mayor's office after a yearlong tenure. Mayor-elect George Stewart will be sworn in Jan. 3. Hill probably won't attend the ceremony. He really wishes it were him taking the oath for another four years.

"It's probably been the most difficult experience of my life, not because I disagree with the process of mayors coming and going," he said. But "anytime you immerse yourself in something like I did here, it's difficult to walk away from. Personally, I think it was too short."

Hill, 42, dived headfirst into the job in January after the City Council appointed him to replace Mayor Joe Jenkins, who resigned to work in state government. Hill didn't mind that he was a compromise choice as far as council members were concerned. The job was his.

He quickly became a champion for clean air, calling automobile pollution the most critical issue facing the city. Hill also recognized that past administrations had put economic development ahead of social needs. He attempted to balance neighborhood rehabilitation and commercial growth.

Under Hill's leadership, Provo was one of two cities in the nation to be selected for the Neighborhood Housing Services program through the Washington-based, nonprofit Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. He also set in motion plans for the city to buy dilapidated Brigham Young Academy and find private investors to renovate it.

Provo didn't suffer economically during Hill's tenure, either. While the fruits of his work might not be ripe for years, the city continues to work toward securing a 1 million-square-foot shopping mall and a hotel-convention center. Transformation of downtown from a retail to business center is also under way.

Thinking Provo underfunded, Hill looked for ways to generate more money for the city. Some of the burden fell to residents. He proposed three tax or utility rate increases, two of which - the hotel tax and US WEST fee on extended-area calling - are in effect. The council likely will approve a utility-franchise tax hike next month.

Despite run-of-the-mill political struggles, Hill flourished in his "once-in-lifetime" opportunity to be mayor.

"I think that it's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and one of the most challenging," he said. "I've said before, this has been the best of times and the worst of times all in one."

The low came when Hill publicly admitted a "personal indiscretion" involving a co-worker, effectively ending his promising political future. Hill in September ended a brief bid for election after another mayoral candidate made his private life an issue. Still, he stubbornly refused to remove his name from the primary election ballot, hoping for one last shot. Voters didn't give it to him.

"I guess when I look back on the year, I don't focus on that. Too much was said and too little understood about the situation," he said.

Through it all, many city employees stood by him. They found Hill a refreshing change to the more authoritative Jenkins. The Police Department recently honored him as a man "who chose to do the right thing for the right reason."

View Comments

"I tried to treat every employee with respect. I tried to understand and learn before I reacted," he said.

New challenges await Hill. He doesn't have a job, although he's still a partner in a CPA firm. Hill sold his interest in RiverWoods Research and Business Park and relinquished executive positions with RiverFront Properties, Smokey's Smokehouse Inc. and Snugz/USA during his mayoral term.

"I'm just anxious to find something to do," Hill said.

Will he try politics again? "I haven't ruled anything out," he said. But "working and living in a fishbowl is not my most favorite environment."

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.