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Millcreek set to narrow candidates for its first city leaders

MILLCREEK — Nine passionate Millcreek residents are competing to become their brand new city's first mayor, but only two will survive past Tuesday's primary.

It will be a historic election for Millcreek's 63,000 residents, tasked with choosing their first government leaders as the township officially transitions to a city Jan. 1, 2017.

There was no shortage of community members eager to lead Millcreek when it becomes Salt Lake County's 17th city. In addition to the nine mayoral hopefuls, 24 candidates are running for four City Council seats.

And by the thousands, Millcreek voters have also embraced their township's evolution.

As of Friday, about 24 percent of Millcreek's nearly 30,000 active voters had already cast their by-mail ballots, already surpassing the county's highest overall primary election turnout — just under 20 percent in 2010.

But elections officials expect even more votes up until polls close Tuesday night.

"It's going to be an excellent turnout," said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. "I'm hoping it will get into the 30s."

Swensen said Millcreek's election turnout may be comparable to Salt Lake City's high-profile mayoral race last year, which drew 40 percent of voters to the polls. She attributed voters' already high response rate to vote-by-mail and enthusiasm to participate in their city's first election.

"It's so important people be very engaged," she said. "The mayor and City Council members will be basically structuring the city."

After Millcreek's new leaders take office in January, they will have six months to decide whether to stay with Salt Lake County's municipal services district or to deliver city services on their own or through other providers.

For those voters who haven't yet cast their ballots, here's a breakdown of the nine mayoral candidates and their platforms:

Fred Healey

Healey was chairman of Millcreek Neighbors for Representative Government, the group that campaigned last year in support of Millcreek's incorporation.

Late last week, however, he announced he had been diagnosed with an aggressive tumor on his kidney, making him question his ability to fight on in the race.

Healey said he will wait until after Tuesday's primary before deciding whether he will continue on to the general election — that is, if he's one of the top two vote-getters.

"My only goal is to do what is best for Millcreek," he said.

Healey said his priorities include economic development, keeping taxes low and ensuring that Millcreek continues to receive services from the county's police and fire agencies. He also believes Millcreek should contract with Salt Lake County for municipal services, but not pool its tax money into the county's municipal services district.

However, Healey acknowledged that because of his health, "it's not looking like I'm going to be successful as a candidate," he said Friday.

That's why he urged voters whose minds may have been changed because of his health to consider voting for Jeff Silvestrini.

Jeff Silvestrini

As a 30-year resident of Millcreek, Silvestrini said he's "interested in continuing the same kind of work I've done for the past three decades."

He is the chairman of Millcreek's Mount Olympus Community Council and the Millcreek Township Council. He also campaigned with Healey on Millcreek Neighbors for Representative Government, and has worked as an attorney for 36 years.

"I want to keep Millcreek the great community that it's been, and I think I'm the right person with the best and most applicable skills to get the city started out right," he said.

Silvestrini said one of his highest priorities is to maintain Millcreek's current level of municipal services while negotiating contracts with the county and staying out of the municipal services district.

Additionally, Silvestrini said he wants to control costs, keep taxes low, protect Millcreek's open space, and improve streets and sidewalks.

Edward Frank

Frank was born and raised in Millcreek and is a real estate salesman with a political science degree from the University of Utah.

He said he wants to use his knowledge of politics and government to "make sure Millcreek stays great."

"There are no bad parts of Millcreek, and I hope to keep it that way," he said. "I want to make sure we get off to a good start and keep Millcreek's money in Millcreek by trying to expand business opportunity."

Frank also said Millcreek should "shop around" for its services, and whether he would support staying with the county's municipal services district would depend on whether Millcreek gets the most "bang for its buck."

"I've learned from other municipalities that have started new, like Taylorsville and Cottonwood Heights, and some services are better in house and some are better to contract," he said.

Phillip Archer

Archer owns a real estate company in Texas and Utah, and has worked in public service since 1987 in various organizations, including the Sister Cities program of the Irving Chamber of Commerce and the Preservation and Redevelopment Board in Irving, Texas.

In February 2015, he moved from Dallas to Millcreek. After volunteering in the campaign to incorporate Millcreek, Archer said he felt eager and qualified to be Millcreek's first mayor.

"I've heard a lot of people saying (I) haven't lived here long enough to be our mayor," he said. "But I think it would be irresponsible to walk away from the opportunity to have somebody with international experience and experience with larger cities."

Archer said he wants to make sure Millcreek takes the time to craft a balanced budget before building a city hall, and work with community organizations to make sure all underserved voices are heard.

He also said he believes Millcreek should opt out of the municipal services district to expand its service choices.

Scott Howell

Howell served in the Utah Senate for three terms, including eight years as the minority leader. He also ran as the Utah Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and 2012.

A Millcreek native, Howell recently retired from a 34-year career with IBM, where he worked on an initiative to use technology to tackle urban issues.

Howell said he would use his company experience to create a tech-savvy, eco-friendly city while healing the divide between pro- and anti-city voters.

"I want to bring together a community to create a sustainable, green community with online services to promote an effective, efficient, fiscally responsible city where everyone will want to live in the future," he said.

Howell said he would work with the City Council to figure out the most fiscally responsible options for municipal services, develop strong crime initiatives, and improve the city's street lighting.

Becky Moss

Moss, chairwoman of the Utah Stonewall Democrats, described herself as an engaged public servant and gay rights activist. She said she moved to Millcreek three years ago but has lived in Salt Lake County since 1975, working as a logistics manager.

"I wasn't a proponent of Millcreek becoming a city, but because it has, I don't want the city to fail," she said.

As mayor, Moss said she would protect Millcreek's services, prioritize more careful zoning laws, and facilitate citizen-driven decision-making.

She said she likes the idea of the municipal services district, but she would want to consider all options and engage existing community councils before making a decision on how Millcreek should maintain its current level of service.

"I want to make sure that the citizens make the decisions of this new city," she said. "Services are all really good, and they need to be just like how the county has always done."

Verdi White

White, a longtime Millcreek resident and small-business owner, previously worked as the state Homeland Security director.

"I've watched the developement of Millcreek for quite a long time — 60 years," he said. "I have a vested interest in how the city goes forward."

White said he's watched high-density apartments rise in the middle of Millcreek neighborhoods, so as mayor he would encourage slower development and more meticulous ordinances.

"I will tighten up planning and zoning so we don't get a hodgepodge of development," he said. "The thing that keeps cities sustained overtime is controlled developement."

White said he believes Millcreek should contract with Salt Lake County for services, but not opt into the municipal services district. He said he would also prioritize reducing crime — specificially theft and drug dealing — and keep taxes flat.

Craig S. Cook

Cook was unavailable to speak with the Deseret News on Thursday and Friday. On his website, he describes himself as the "underdog" because he's self-funding his race.

He has lived in Millcreek since 1972 and has 45 years of experience as lawyer, 34 years with the military, and 44 years with the Humane Society of Utah as an animal advocate, according to his website.

Cook opposed Millcreek's incorporation but now he says he's seeking election so he can be the city's "watchdog."

"If elected, I will only run for one term. That's enough time to get Millcreek city on its feet so I can go back to suing animal abusers," he stated in a mailer. "I promise to be a fierce watchdog … to make sure that the new city government does not waste precious resources."

Cook said he would urge the City Council to hold widespread public hearings so the city can take time to build a "strong foundation" of laws and policies and use residents' opinions to decide how to provide municipal services.

Jo-Ann Wong

Wong is a Millcreek community activist who worked as a Deseret News staff member and page designer for nearly 30 years.

She said she opposed Millcreek's incorporation movement ever since it came to fruition 10 years ago, and now she wants to keep the mayoral seat away from the pro-city candidates.

"The incorporators want to run Millcreek city as a business. They're thinking of streams of revenue and bonds and self-providing — all the things I've been opposed to," she said. "I want to basically keep our atmosphere and quality of life the same."

Wong said if she's elected, she would start forming "Millcreek resident advocacy groups" so residents could make the decisions around planning, zoning and whether the city should join the municipal services district.

"I don't want the city to incur any debt," she added. "But if the residents decide that the city needs to incur debt for a project, it will have to go to a vote in the next election cycle."

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1