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Election 2009: Curtis wins Provo mayor race; incumbents tossed in some other races

Utah's first black woman mayor elected

PROVO — John Curtis, who promised to heal the rift between the Provo mayor and the City Council and get tough on gangs, will be the first new mayor in Provo in 12 years after beating state legislator Steve Clark with 53 percent of the vote.

Curtis received 5,321 votes to Clark's 4,744. He will replace three-term mayor Lewis Billings, who did not seek re-election.

Elsewhere in Utah County, Saratoga Springs elected the first black woman mayor in Utah history, Ludmya B. Love; Orem voters gave Mayor Jerry Washburn a fourth term in office, and American Fork Mayor Heber Thompson was soundly defeated by James H. Hadfield while Mapleton Mayor Laurel Brady lost by a large margin to Brian Wall.

In Salt Lake County, voters ousted longtime Herriman Mayor J. Lynn Crane, along with incumbent City Council members Michelle Facer Baguley and Jerry Walker. Bluffdale voters also cleaned house, dumping incumbents Nancy Lord and Bill Maxwell from the City Council.

In Davis County, Layton Mayor Steve Curtis and Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson were among incumbents re-elected.

Curtis' win was part of major change in Provo.

"I'm elated. I'm very pleased and very grateful," said Curtis from a campaign celebration that included the three City Council winners — all newcomers — Laura Cabanilla, Rick Healey and Sterling Beck. "I think that we worked extremely hard. We had a message that resonated with the voters. I think that really was the formula."

Curtis, a Provo businessman with no previous government experience, invested heavily in his campaign and outspent Clark $60,132 to $17,477, according to Oct. 27 campaign spending reports.

Clark will continue in his role as a member of the Utah House of Representatives, where the Republican is in the middle of his fifth term.

Provo city recorder LaNice Groesbeck said the city had an 18 percent voter turnout, with about 2 percent of Provo's registered voters casting their ballots in early voting.

Curtis said his first order of business will be to heal a city torn by a contentious election.

"Between now and taking office, I would like to work on the unity theme," Curtis said. "There has been some divisiveness in the city, and I would like to find the common ground and see if we can heal some of the wounds that have been caused by the election."

Curtis ran a campaign based on his business experience and promised to expand the city's economy while keeping government spending low. He said he wants to create a 20-year plan for the city. Positioning himself as tough on crime, he said once he took office he would act immediately to dedicate more police officers to control the growth of gangs in the community.

Although campaigning was mostly amicable throughout the election, controversy over the issue of endorsements cropped up during the final days of the campaign.

In an Oct. 22 debate, Clark claimed that among other high-powered supporters, he had the endorsement of Gov. Gary Herbert, a statement he had to retract after Herbert said he supported both candidates.

But Saturday, a Clark flier repeated the claim of "support" by Herbert, including a quote from the governor claiming that Clark is "willing to roll up his sleeves and get things done."

Curtis responded quickly, claiming that Clark was misleading voters with an implied endorsement from Herbert.

Clark also painted Curtis as a Democrat, despite the fact that Provo city elections are nonpartisan.

Neither tactic swayed voters.