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Lehi's split decision not too surprising

LEHI — Given the divisive nature of the races, the split decision in the Lehi election Tuesday was, perhaps, not all that surprising.

Howard H. Johnson ousted two-term incumbent mayor Kenneth J. Greenwood with 57 percent of the vote, while incumbents Stephen Holbrook and Johnny Barnes fended off fierce challenges from Craig Laurence and Gordon Miner to retain their City Council seats.

Johnson said he was "elated" by the victory, but his joy was somewhat tempered by the defeat of running mates Laurence and Miner.

The three ran together under the campaign theme "A Fresh Look," citing concern over a lack of citizen involvement, rising taxation and planning issues in the booming city.

Johnson said he was not surprised that Holbrook and Barnes retained their seats, citing their immense popularity in town, and said he does not expect having a hard time in working with an incumbent City Council.

"I'll do everything I can to work with those five men and get the city going where it needs to go," he said. "I don't think I'll have a hard time working with (Barnes and Holbrook). We talked last night, and we're all old friends."

Greenwood came into the campaign at the height of his popularity after the opening of the highly touted Cabela's in Lehi in August.

Voters seemed to have responded, however, to the questions Johnson raised about the way Greenwood conducted public meetings and handled issues of development.

When contacted Wednesday, Greenwood expressed no difficulty in accepting the outcome.

"It's been fine, and I've had a great ride," he said. "It's someone else's turn now."

Asked if he was surprised, Greenwood said "not really."

"That's the way it's supposed to be and that's the way the system works," he said.

Greenwood is already planning his post-political future and said he hopes to leave on an LDS mission early next year.

Meanwhile, Johnson said his biggest challenge as he prepares to take office is building trust with city employees.

"The big problem is that the city employees have felt or been told that if I got in, it would be hazardous for them, and that's not the case," he said. "It will be a bit of a struggle because they're immensely loyal to Ken, and the challenge will be to transfer some of that loyalty to me and my idiosyncrasies."

Johnson's defeated running mates said they would have liked to serve but were pleased overall by the election's outcome, calling Johnson's victory as a sign of major progress.

"Our platform was about involving the public, and in that role, (Johnson) will have great influence because he conducts the meetings," Miner said.

"As for the issues of planning, taxation and spending, those things are still controlled by the council, but the council should recognize that those people who voted for Howard want those issues addressed," Miner continued.

Laurence said he will continue to push for the changes he set out to accomplish.

" 'A Fresh Look' was not just a statement to get people elected," Laurence said. "We're not just trying to get in office, we're conveying a vision for the future. . . . I have faith in the present City Council that they'll recognize that things could be better and they'll work toward that."

Barnes, however, sees things differently. He said his re-election along with Holbrook indicated voters obviously were satisfied with the way the city is heading.

"I believe most people think we're doing a good job," he said. "Otherwise, they would have wiped us clean out."

Barnes said he was surprised at the outcome of the mayor's race, because he thought the people of Lehi were happy with Greenwood. Despite that outcome, he said he is confident in the state of the city.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," he said. "I would think that if all three (of the other candidates) had won, we would need to go in and change the way the city is going."


E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com