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Political wars boost voter interest in Am.F.

One thing can be said for certain about American Fork's recent high-profile political battles: They haven't encouraged apathy.

Involvement in city politics has reached a fever pitch as controversial Mayor Jess Green has battled the City Council and police chief in recent months. Apathy, as measured by the number of candidates running in Tuesday's primary, is not among American Fork's various challenges."This is the most (candidates) we've ever had," said City Recorder Richard M. Colborn. American Fork began holding primaries in 1993; before that, political parties held conventions to nominate candidates.

In Tuesday's primary, five mayoral candidates will compete for two slots in November's general election. Seventeen candidates for City Council will vie for just four slots in the general election. The total of 21 candidates - four more have withdrawn after filing to run - is more than the number running in the larger cities of Orem and Provo.

Many candidates say they are running to fix the problems behind the city's recent political battles. Some candidates and residents think disgust with the actions of current city officials means incumbents face an uphill battle.

"The adversity that has taken place, the inability of our city government to get along, has brought out many citizens seeking to strengthen this city," said council candidate Ken Jorgenson, who is also American Fork's postmaster.

"There is a power struggle that is going on," said B-Jo Dumler, who is also seeking one of two available City Council posts. "This election will hopefully bring new members and new blood into our City Council."

Perhaps the most intriguing race is for mayor. When he was elected in 1993, Green promised he would serve just one term. However, he changed his mind in the last days before the Aug. 15 filing deadline and will face four other candidates in the primary.

Councilmen Ricky K. Storrs and John L. McKinney are seeking Green's job. Both say they would do several things differently than Green if elected.

"I would be the captain of the ship, not in the engine room trying to fix everything," Storrs said.

McKinney said one of the most important things for city officials now is "rebuilding trust in government."

Both councilmen indirectly referred to Green's penchant for undermining City Council decisions and problematic communication practices as things they would like to change.

Other candidates for mayor include Ted B. Barratt and Phil Collins.

Four-year seats on the council are being vacated by McKinney and George Brown, both of whose terms expire. Storrs has two years remaining in his term, but he would trade in his council seat for the mayor's, if elected.

Candidates for council seats include Jorgenson, the postmaster; Dumler, a 21-year-old student at Utah Valley State College; an insurance appraiser; a real estate professional; a planning commissioner; a retired nurse who is a great-grandmother and 11 others. Five women are seeking to become just the second woman in recent years to serve on the City Council.

Several candidates are campaigning to improve relationships between elected officials and city employees. It's a growing problem that reached a crescendo last month when Green fired police chief John Durrant. The council later voted not to support Green's move, and Durrant returned to work.

"I believe in accountability and stewardship of city employees and department heads, but at the proper time and place," said candidate Gregory L. Ruch. "City employees should be able to function without having to constantly look over their shoulder."

Besides fixing problems of the past several years, prominent campaign topics are a bond election for new city buildings and controlling the city's growth. But, sooner or later, discussion returns to power struggles and personality conflicts among the city's principal decision makers.

"I can only hope we overlook the dumb decisions of the past and improve our means for the future," Dumler said. "There do need to be some changes made in order . . . to go forward."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Am.F. candidates

Mayoral race (two qualify):

Ted Burton Barratt

Phil Collins

Jess Green (incumbent)

John L. McKinney

Ricky K. Storrs

City Council contests (four qualify):

Scott M. Beck

Juel A. Belmont

Marvin H. Bogh

Bonita Jo (B-Jo) Dumler

Fred L. England

Patrick J. Fleming

Gary R. Gough

Don Hampton

Stephen C. Hatch

David L. Hobbs

Dorothy "Ginger" Hunter

Ken Jorgenson

Lawrence C. Lassen

LaVon Laursen

John A. Parker

Gregory L. Ruch

Arlee B. Stoker