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Young Taylorsville looking for stability from elections

A 2-year-old toddler of a city still trying to solidify its vision and style of government, Taylorsville is looking toward the coming municipal elections to provide new stability and improved communications.

With the mayor and all council members standing for election, the stability part will get a major assist when city officials are all elected to staggered terms of office.The mayoral post and two council seats will be filled for the next four years, while three council positions will be filled for two years.

After this year, all future city elections will seat Taylorsville mayors and some council members for four-year terms with three seats up for election every two years.

But the improving communications part is a little tougher, and it may wind up being one of the key issues - along with the matter of administrative management style - that voters will consider when they step into the polling booth.

Relations between the Mayor LaVelle Prince and council members have been frayed at times over the past two years as city officials have struggled with the usual "new kid on the block" problems that come with starting a new city.

Even more tension developed from the debate over which form of government Taylorsville voters really approved when the city was formed two years ago.

And it didn't help when there was confusion over whether Prince was originally elected to a four-year or two-year term when the city was formed.

Those last two questions have been resolved with the aid of the Utah Attorney General's Office: The city adopted a strong mayor-council form where the mayor is Taylorsville's chief administrator, and Prince has to run for office again this fall.

Those issues coupled with Prince's forceful management style have periodically left the mayor at odds with council members who say they would like the city's administrative head to be more open and communicative with its legislative arm.

"A lot of the tension has been personality-driven," said Councilman Ken Cook, who was appointed to complete the unexpired term of Kent Winder. He is now seeking election to a two-year term.

"But there really have not been that many divisive things, and not many open conflicts," noted Cook, who spent two years chairing a budget committee that occasionally butted heads with the mayor.

"The mayor's not the kind of guy who likes someone looking over his shoulder when he's administering," he added. "I wish LaVelle were a little more open . . . but he's very efficient and he certainly has his strengths."

Prince attributed much of the strain between himself and council members recently to the confusion over the city's governmental form - a confusion he says should no longer be a problem.

"With our conversion to the new form, we now have in place the proper checks and balances between the two branches," he said. "That's good because it helps define responsibilities and will allow us to develop better lines of communication."

Councilwoman Janice Auger, who is challenging Prince in the mayoral race, said relationships between the council and mayor were strained long before Tay-lors-ville's form of government became a disputed issue.

"I don't think it's a difference of philosophy that has caused the strain," she said. "It's more of an issue of communication between the mayor and the council.

"There have been numerous times when constituents called council members about something they didn't realize was an issue," Auger recalled. "Later, we found that the mayor was well aware of the problem and that it had been going on for some time."

In such cases, she said, the council would have appreciated the courtesy of being informed about the problems early on.

Council Chairman Bruce Was-den said such problems are a reflection of a management style "that is not conducive to seeking advice" from other stakeholders in the city's government.

A retired educator, Wasden said he would prefer to see a more participative style of management in which the administration doesn't have to be reminded to consult the city's volunteer committees and council members about key administrative actions.

"Right now there seems to be a lack of trust and confidence between the administrative and legislative branches of government," he conceded.

Can that problem be resolved through better communication?

"Absolutely," Wasden added. "The issue here is how you deal with people."

Prince said he would like the council to give the new system a fair shake to see if it relieves some of the tension.

Meantime, the majority of the council is supporting Auger in the mayoral race.

None of the council members are questioning the mayor's work ethic, his mental sharpness or his ability to negotiate the contracts Taylorsville relies upon on for its basic services.