LINDON — Lindon city is looking for a new mayor after Jeff Acerson stepped down today to become president of the Rome, Italy, mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Acerson and his wife, Karen, and four of their six children will leave for Rome next week to begin a three-year assignment presiding over nearly 140 missionaries.

Acerson served as mayor for two and a half years and a Lindon city councilman for seven years before that. Karen Acerson has been active in the community as president of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

"It's just been more than anything I could have expected," Acerson said. "What a blessing. I feel very honored to have had the privilege to serve."

City council members took a few minutes during his last City Council meeting Tuesday to honor him.

"The mayor has some unique abilities," said councilman Eric Anthony. "He's fair and open minded ... about the needs of the community and willing to be influenced. He doesn't let his decisions be owned by his ego."

Anthony pointed to a wall across from the city council member seats and said they'll soon add Acerson's picture to the rows and rows of framed pictures of previous mayors.

"With your talents and abilities, you might end up as the mayor of Rome," councilman Toby Bath joked.

Acerson thanked his council members for their kindness over the years and said the thought of leaving is still bittersweet.

"I'm not sure how many more tears are left in me," he said. "It's challenging to transfer to public service in another community with a different language. My desire is to make everyone's lives better, (but) you can't help feel a little bit of sadness as you leave."

Years ago a young Acerson served the LDS Church as a missionary in the Padova mission — created from parts of the Rome and the Milan missions. Padova has since been dissolved and parts of Acerson's old mission are now included in the Rome mission.

"There are people that I taught ... that are there," he said. "It's going to be very tender to see them again and be with them."

Applications to be mayor will be accepted until July 11. The Lindon City Council will meet July 13 to interview potential candidates, who must be registered voters, Lindon residents and U.S. citizens over 18 years old. After a closed session, the council plans announce their decision that night.

The chosen applicant will serve until the November election, when other applicants will have a chance to run. The person elected in November will then serve the remaining two years in Acerson's term, said City Administrator Ott Dameron.

Acerson's advice to his replacement was to "continue to create an environment where people from all walks of life and all points of view can come and express ideas and feelings and concerns and not ever feel threatened," he said. "When people can share ideas in a very peaceful, positive way, we're all going to end up much better off."