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Newcomer defeats Atkinson in W. Jordan race

SHARE Newcomer defeats Atkinson in W. Jordan race

Kelly Atkinson was ready for Election Day to end hours before the final ballot was counted.

"The sun will come up tomorrow," said Atkinson, who was defeated Tuesday in the West Jordan mayoral race by political newcomer Donna Evans.Evans bested the former state lawmaker by more than a two-to-one margin - a sharp turnaround since October, when Atkinson collected more than half of the primary election vote among four candidates.

Indeed, a little sunshine would likely be welcomed by Atkinson, who endured several dark weeks campaigning amid allegations of sexual harassment and past indiscretions.

Those allegations - coupled with subsequent media coverage, said Atkinson, cost him West Jordan's mayoral seat.

"Without question, the allegations influenced the election," he said.

The media's coverage of the race can also shoulder much of the blame, he added.

"The written press did a great disservice by misconstruing the facts," said Atkinson. The 46-year-old candidate was especially critical of the Deseret News, saying the publication filled its pages with weighted, unbalanced stories about Atkinson.

"It was the single worst coverage we got," said Atkinson.

Continuing, Atkinson said the News' recent story that included allegations of an extramarital affair involving his wife, Penny, was "beneath any standard . . . to personally attack my wife is contemptible."

That Deseret News story was printed after Atkinson issued a press release admitting his own extramarital affair, which ended a decade ago, and in response to a story printed in City Weekly that dealt with a relationship between Kelly Atkison, his wife Penny and a former family friend whom they befriended in the early 1980s when the friend was then a teenager.

Atkinson vehemently denies any wrongdoing concerning allegations by the former friend and insists he is not guilty of a recent sexual harassment charge leveled in a 3rd District Court civil case by one of his former secretaries.

Atkinson said he understands that West Jordan voters were hesitant to elect a mayor "embroiled in controversy," adding that his focus now is on an upcoming court date for the civil case where he can face his accusers and restore his reputation.

Meanwhile, West Jordan will have a new mayor in Donna Evans.

Incumbent Max Hogan did not seek re-election, saying he pledged to be a one-term mayor and now wanted to spend more time with his wife.

Evans, 41, concedes she was probably the beneficiary of a few anti-Atkinson votes, but adds "that's always true whenever you're running against a known political figure."

The mayor-elect said she worked "extremely hard" after the primary, visiting voters one-on-one and waging an aggressive campaign.

Evans admits she'd like to sleep late Wednesday morning, "but I've already got a full day planned," she said.

Evans hopes to spend the next four years bringing government a little closer to the people and effectively planning the city's commercial future. Providing the city with a firm identity is another goal, she added.

"We need more upscale restaurants, and a hotel for people to stay when they participate in tournaments at our new soccer complex," said Evans.

West Jordan City Council candidates mingled around City Hall until almost 1 a.m. when the final ballots were counted.

In the end, incumbents Brian D. Pitts and Gordon M. Haight were successful in their re-election bids.

Pitts secured one of the two four-year seats by a relatively comfortable margin, but Haight had to wait until the final tally before edging out Carolyn Nelson by about 100 votes.

Challenger Monty S. Young finished far behind.

"It was a good campaign, the votes kept flip-flopping until the end," said a relieved Haight. "There was no negativity in this City Council race. Each candidate was running for a seat - not running against someone else."

Nelson called the election "fun," adding she plans to run for public office again in the future.



W. Jordan's mayoral turnover

West Jordan Mayor-elect Donna Evans will be stepping into a political revolving door when she takes office in January. She will be the sixth West Jordan mayor in just 10 years.

- Evans' one-term predecessor, Max Hogan, took office in 1994.

- Kenneth A. Miller, served four years after being elected in 1989.

- Paul Henderson, then a city councilman, became acting mayor in September 1988. In the 1989 mayoral primary, he finished fifth of seven candidates.

- Kristen Lambert, then a city councilwoman, was appointed mayor by the City Council in June 1988. She resigned a few months later after moving from the city.

- Bob Roberts was elected mayor in 1985 but resigned in 1988 to protest a council-voted tax increase.