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Poplar Grove resident selected to fill vacancy on Salt Lake City Council

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The Salt Lake City-County Building is pictured in 2020. Dennis J. Faris has been tapped to fill a vacant City Council seat.

Carvings above a window in the Salt Lake City-County Building are pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. The Salt Lake City Council on Thursday, May 12, 2021, tapped Dennis J. Faris as a new councilman for the vacant District 2 seat.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Salt Lake City Council selected Dennis J. Faris as a new councilman for the vacant District 2 seat after hearing presentations from 15 applicants Thursday.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall commended the council’s unanimous decision and congratulated Faris following the council’s vote.

“Congratulations Dennis, and I think I’ve been a part of trying to recruit you to be on the City Council in years past, so here you are. I think that the experience that you bring to city conversations is so broad and deeply rooted in community organizing and public service for years and years, it runs in your family. So welcome, and so happy for you. Welcome your entire family to City Hall,” Mendenhall said.

According to Faris’ application, he has served as the chairman and vice chairman of the Poplar Grove Community Council for over 10 years, was a founding board member of the Westside Coalition that brought together all six westside community councils to work together on issues, was a board member of the River District Business Alliance, and helped provide leadership to reorganize Salt Lake Community Network.

Faris served as vice chairman along with former District 2 Councilman Andrew Johnston. Johnston stepped down to become the mayor’s director of homelessness policy and outreach. He attended the meeting and spoke to his successor and referenced their time together at the community council.

“We took our lumps together over those first couple years, and I learned a lot from him, and I was surprised when you put your name in, but you’re ultimately qualified. You know the neighborhood, you know the people, you know the issues,” Johnston said.

He continued, “Congratulations to you, congratulations to the council. I know these are hard decisions and also for everybody else who applied. I’ve reached out to everybody but they really gave me a lot of hope and pride in the west side and District 2 in our neighborhoods for such qualified folks to show up and show out.”

Farris has lived in the Poplar Grove neighborhood of Salt Lake City for almost 20 years. In his application, Faris wrote that his experience living and working in the city has provided him insight that will help benefit the role.

“This city also faces many complicated issues that can have a grave impact — issues like homelessness and diversity. In my professional life, I work with sheltered and unsheltered persons alike, helping each to mitigate issues regarding homelessness. I am intimately familiar with the homeless service providers and systems, as well as affordable housing issues, and this knowledge and insight can greatly help the City Council to understand the complexities as you determine the best steps forward on many fronts There are great strides that must be made to maintain and nurture this diversity while uplifting the city as a whole,” wrote Faris.

Faris also referenced the ethnic makeup of Salt Lake City, being more diverse than the rest of the state. Being a person of color and ethnic minority, Faris told the council he feels that he can represent one of the most diverse communities within Utah.

Faris was given the oath of office virtually during the meeting.