Sandy voters sent Tom Dolan back to City Hall for his fourth term as mayor Tuesday with his smallest margin of victory in 12 years.
Dolan, who said he was responsible for keeping taxes down while expanding city services, beat Gary T. Forbush, a technology consultant and relative newcomer to politics. Dolan won with 53 percent of the vote to Forbush's 47 percent. The two traded leads as the Salt Lake County clerk's office counted votes and at the end of the night, Dolan said he clinched the race after several east-Sandy precincts went in his favor.
Voters also elected Scott Cowdell to District One's City Council seat and Chris McCandless to District Four's seat. Both candidates were unopposed and are to serve four-year terms. Voters in District Three re-elected incumbent Bryant Anderson as their city councilman over challenger Brigitte Dawson, and they sent Steve Smith, an accountant, to the at-large seat, defeating Max Burdick, a real estate broker and planning commission member.
Dolan spent the campaign telling voters that there was more to the Sandy mayor's race than a zoning change for a gravel pit, which voters approved and will soon be home to a Boyer Co. development. Dolan said that he had maintained a high level of city services, which gave residents a good quality of life, while keeping taxes low. He cited improvements to the police department, sanitation, city infrastructure, and the fire department, which now has a liaison with several other city departments to pool resources and save money on training and equipment. His next term — and last before he retires, he has said — will continue focus on maintaining the city's services.
"We've got a lot of roads to build, and we've got to continue our public safety efforts, and continue to buy open space and complete our trails systems, and all those kinds of efforts that we've been working at over the last 10 to 12 years," Dolan said.
Forbush has said that he filed to run for mayor after thinking that the city's administration did not listen to residents during public hearings about the gravel pit. Forbush, who was a plaintiff in the legal battles that led to the voter referendum on the gravel pit, tried to convince voters that he was more than a one-issue candidate.
"Being a political novice, I guess I'm not experienced in the whole process," Forbush said. "I had a bit of a learning curve that Mayor Dolan obviously already knew."
The numbers for the mayor's race were nearly identical to the results for the referendum on the gravel pit. Dolan, who supported the gravel pit development (a "for" vote on the referendum), got 10,478 votes; the "for" gravel pit side got 10,421 votes. Forbush had 9,296 votes, and the "against" side of the referendum had 9,203 votes.
"I kind of thought the whole time that as the gravel pit would go, so would I go," Forbush said.
Dolan had raised nearly $79,000 as of one week before the election, and Forbush had raised one-eighth that amount — roughly $10,000 — in the same period. Dolan's donations came from a broad range of developers, real estate professionals, corporations and individuals, including $10,000 each from Jordan Commons owner Larry Miller and Raddon Union Heights, a development company owned by one of Dolan's friends. In the end, the incumbent's extensive political network likely helped him retain his job.
Dolan will contend with the gravel pit development and continued pressure to develop and in-fill parts of Sandy, which is largely built out with approximately 90,000 residents. Sandy officials will also be keeping an eye on the Legislature this January as state lawmakers revamp laws about sales tax distribution and redevelopment agencies, both of which have been steady streams of money for the south-valley suburb.