Stella Welsh says she doesn't spend a lot of her time worrying about whether she's winning or losing votes among the constituents in Orem.

She's too busy trying to do what's best for the community in the long run.If that temporarily alienates some of the voters, then so be it, says the popular mayor, who looks more like somebody's favorite grandmother than the head of a bustling city of more than 70,000.

"You have to do what you think is right,' said Welsh, in an interview at her office Wednesday.

"I try to look at the whole picture, the future and what's best for Orem at large. Sometimes that alienates a specific segment of the population but that can't always be helped." Welsh knows she's currently losing points with some senior citizens who want to retain complete control of the new Senior Friendship Center - scheduled for completion within the next two months.

But she feels strongly that a building with so much taxpayer investment ought to be open to the community when it's not being used by the senior citizens. She's taking heat for her position despite the fact that she is a senior citizen herself and counts herself as sympathetic to older people.

She's aware that whatever decision she and the City Council make regarding the 22-acre Signetics property at 800 North and 1300 South will be controversial.

"That is probably the second most controversial issue I've been involved in since I've been serving as mayor,' said Welsh, who took over for Mayor Blaine Willes in 1990 and is in the middle of her first elected term. "The first being the Timpanogos Research Park" (where WordPerfect/Novell is located in north Orem). She's pleased that a Deseret News Dan Jones poll of 133 Orem residents indicates a good approval rating for her administration but concerned that overall, Americans seem to take little active interest in local politics.

"I was just reading something in Los Angeles when we were there waiting at the airport that 75 percent of the people asked in a survey had no idea who any of their county officials were,' said Welsh.

She thinks Orem residents have pretty much liked the activities in the community that are going on without a tax increase.

Orem was named a "Tree City USA' for the first time in 1994. Traffic patterns to the Orem post office were reworked, alleviating much of the stress and congestion around that area, she said. "We completed that project which involved five different agreements before we were through." Traffic studies and citizen ad hoc committees have provided much useful and valid information, she said, especially for the situation around Utah Valley State College and on the Carterville Road.

"We learned some very valuable things. For instance, we can't do a whole lot at UVSC until the state and the Legislature do some things. That was interesting to find out." Welsh said citizens seem generally pleased with the progress of construction on State Street - with Phase 1 complete.

Phase 2 will begin in the spring, from 1000 South to 100 North, and should go as smoothly, if not better, than Phase 1, said the mayor.

The city spent $3 million on a dewatering facility for the Wastewater Treatment Plant, improving and upgrading the operation there dramatically.

Orem's library is expanding to house the largest Children's Library in the Western region. The Storytelling Festival continues to grow and put the community on the map, she said.

A third fire station is soon to get under way in northwest Orem.

More housing, and particularly some nice housing for senior citizens in the Robbins Care Center, is coming. Commercial development along 1300 South continues to boom, providing Orem a healthy tax base.

"All of this is good,' said the mayor, "although there are some who feel Orem should not grow. They want it left a rural bedroom community. Other people feel we shouldn't take any federal money.

"There are problems we must solve, such as the pollution issue." In every case, Welsh takes a head-on stance. She isn't afraid to seek out information or defend her decisions.

She's committed to the betterment of Orem and feels an elected officials cannot fret over popular opinion.

"You simply must do what you think is right. I don't know how else you could do this,' she said.


Additional Information

Additional Information

Utah County Poll

Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of Provo mayor George Stewart?

Strongly approve .......15 percent

Somewhat approve....33 percent

Somewhat disapprove..9 percent

Strongly disapprove......7 percent

Don't know..................37 percent

Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of Orem mayor Stella Welsh?

Strongly approve .................18 percent

Somewhat approve..............37 percent

Somewhat disapprove.......... 5 percent

Strongly disapprove...............1 percent

Don't know ...........................39 percent

Poll conducted Dec. 5-10, 1994. Margin of error +/- 5% on interviews of 137 registered voters in Provo and 133 in Orem. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.