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Election pivotal for growing Riverton

Riverton's burgeoning growth, busy streets and sweeping annexations of land for more houses and businesses has turned this election into a pivotal point in the city's history that will decide its future for some time.

Incumbent Sandra Lloyd and former City Council member Don Beckstead, two people with very different opinions on many issues, are running a hotly contested race for mayor.Beckstead led the primary election with 998 votes compared to Lloyd's 790 votes in a four-person race.

Beckstead did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, a Beckstead campaign worker provided summarized answers to questions about issues. Another campaign worker provided a photo. Other information was available from articles or ads that previously appeared in the Deseret News and South Valley Journal.

Six people are vying for three spots on the City Council: two candidates are running for a two-year spot, four are in competition for two four-year terms.

A major concern is how to handle growth, especially since Riverton recently annexed 2,500 acres of unincorporated Salt Lake County property and plans to annex approximately 3,000 more acres.

Residents are facing the dilemma of wanting to welcome newcomers and looking for more business development to build the tax base. But at the same time, people in Riverton don't want to lose the city's comfortable small-town feeling.

Election debate also is focusing on the city's role in the arts, historic preservation and its sense of community.

At issue are the former Riverton Elementary School, which the city purchased from the Jordan School District and plans to turn into a cultural center, and a donated house, the Crane Home, which is intended to be a museum.

Some people - including Lloyd - argue that these are important parts of the city's culture and tradition and that maintaining them wouldn't cost very much. In fact, these might even become money makers if the Crane Home is turned into another Wheeler Farm.

But other people - including Beckstead - argue that Riverton Elementary School could turn out to be an expensive white elephant that probably will sop up tax dollars for code upgrades and renovation. They argue that selling the eight acres of commercial land could produce funds for a new cultural/community center someplace else that would serve the city better.

The mayoral election has been marred by ugly events including an anonymous smear campaign against Beckstead through the mail that attempts to link him to the Ku Klux Klan. Beckstead in published reports has steadfastly denied any involvement with hate organizations and said he is angry and hurt at the vicious mailings.

Supporters of Beckstead have hinted that Lloyd is behind the fliers by asking who would benefit the most if Beckstead's name is sullied.

But Lloyd is equally steadfast in denouncing such unethical tactics and said she has had nothing to do with the fliers, nor would she ever engage in a smear campaign. She also resents the idea that some people think she would do such a thing.

The council races are active but haven't involved controversies such as this.

In one race, Cherri White, 37, a wife and mother who ran for Jordan School Board last year, is running for a two-year term on the City Council against Adam Bass, 18, a University of Utah student.

The race for two four-year terms includes: Joel Miller, 33, a school counselor who's running for office for the first time; Galen Mills, 49, who works at Alliant Techsystems and was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council; Steve Brooks, 58, an incumbent council member and district manager for Eastman Kodak; and Michael Orr, 37, an engineer who's making his first try for public office.

(More details on council candidates will be published Thursday.)