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Style separates Layton mayoral hopefuls

Curtis and Handy are both experienced in city government

LAYTON — They don't vary much on the issues of growth, accessibility to elected officials, public safety and planning. Lack of experience isn't a problem.

The most evident difference between the two candidates for Layton city mayor?

Personality and leadership style.

On one side is the marketer, two-term councilman Stephen G. Handy, 54. He's slender, media-savvy and a slick communicator. Handy is a bold campaigner, with a billboard, a Web site and Internet blog.

He has spent $19,445 campaigning thus far.

On the other side is the organizer, three-term councilman Steve Curtis, 50. He's not as smooth-spoken, but communicates with a straightforward, down-to-earth ease. Instead of using a billboard, Curtis drives a red Volkswagen Beetle that has been wrapped with campaign slogans and his photo.

Curtis has spent $12,542 on his campaign — far more than he had wanted.

Outgoing Mayor Jerry Stevenson says both men are qualified for the job. The biggest challenge facing Layton, a city of almost 60,000 residents, is population growth, said Stevenson. Whoever steps into office will need to have a plan to accommodate an approaching influx of people, businesses and traffic.

"I haven't given either one of them an assignment that they haven't taken and completed to its fullest," said Stevenson. "I think either one will do a great job."

But he admits the two have two different personalities.

Said Rep. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, a former Layton councilman: "They're both great individuals. They have totally different management styles, totally different ways of approaching the same issue. There's clearly a choice between the two of them."

Adams has written an endorsement for Handy, but Curtis supporters say Handy lacks the "backbone" to be a good mayor. Handy builds consensus and communicates but isn't firm in his decisions, said Layton resident Scott Nelson.

"I've seen him waver on too many issues to think he'd make a good leader," said Nelson. "You can't have a leader who is not firm in his decisions."

Said east Layton resident Carol Thacker: "We don't need a marketer. We need a doer."

As a councilman, Curtis has focused on youth and youth activities. He says he has spent more time with residents than Handy and understands their concerns. He says he's approachable and has the knowledge to effectively plan for growth in the city.

Curtis also knows he is the underdog in the race. During the October primary elections, he finished behind Handy by about 270 votes. One reason was because of geographic location, said Curtis. Handy lives on the east side of Layton, where voter turnout is traditionally better. Curtis lives on the west side.

"To me, that (vote difference) is easily made up," said Curtis, a supervisor for Qwest Communications. "We have only 20 districts, that's about 10 votes a district. It's easily made up if you work hard enough."

But he admits winning the election will be a tight race. Handy is a marketer by profession and he's well-known in his neighborhood. The race will come down to whoever can best market themselves to the public and draw out supporters on election day.

During the primary elections, voter turnout was about 14 percent.

Handy, who benefited from higher voter turnout in east Layton, isn't taking his lead for granted. His strength, supporters say, is face-to-face communication. As of Friday last week, Handy had held 12 cottage meetings with residents.

He's also not afraid to spend money or solicit campaign donations. Handy has gathered donations from about 130 individuals, according to campaign finance disclosures. Curtis had gathered about 11 individual donations, according to his disclosure form.

Said Handy: "I have relationships beyond the city and have confidence that I can build the right type of relationships for the city. . . . The question really is, who has the skill-set to get things done? Mr. Curtis talks a lot about youth and recreation — but unless you have economic prosperity, you can't have quality of life."

Handy pledges to hold open office hours if elected. He wants to maintain fiscal responsibility and provide more for public safety. As a self-employed marketing consultant, he says his time is flexible.

"I don't know how I could do it if I were tied to a desk and driving 25 miles away to work," he said.

As for lack of a backbone? "I like to build consensus," said Handy, "but frankly, you can't always do that."

Municipal elections will be held Nov. 8. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., when residents will also select two new city council members among a field of four.

Candidates at a Glance

Steve Handy:

age: 54

occupation: marketing consultant

family: six children, wife's name is Holly

political experience: two-term Layton councilman (has served 6 years)

Steve Curtis

age: 50

occupation: supervisor at Qwest Communications

family: four children, wife's name is RaeLynn

political experience: three-term Layton councilman (has served 10 years)