Early voting is underway in Coalville's mayoral primary election as of Tuesday, and residents will find no shortage of eager candidates willing to serve the city this year.
Six primary candidates are set to be whittled down to two on Tuesday, August 13, and The Park Record was able to ask each of the candidates a set series of pertinent questions leading up to the primary. Here is what they had to say:
Merlyn W. Johnson
One of the issues Merlyn Johnson highlights is the new wastewater treatment plant project. He says he is running to "keep the present plant" even though it needs work done. He says as the former mayor who got the present plant built, he is "probably the only one who really knows anything" about it.
Johnson also says that he believes the issue of the plant's lease renewal can be worked out but that the lower-income residents of the area cannot afford a new sewer plant.
With water being an important issue, Johnson asked, "Why were we on water rationing on the secondary water system when the farmers were all watering their fields? Having served as mayor before, I have expertise to fix some of these problems."
Johnson has lived in Coalville since 1960, and says he has served as an educator, a public official and a plumber, among other things. He wants people to be able to live in Coalville and "be proud of the city" and asks why the population is smaller than it was in the late 1800s despite new growth around the city.
Regarding development, Johnson says that Coalville should sell itself as "a destination for people to get out of the city for a few days." He touts the town's clean air but also stresses that steps need to be taken to get people to want to live in Coalville. Attracting "small, clean businesses" he says is an interest of his as well.
Trever J. Johnson
Trever Johnson said he has been watching Coalville's growth and development for the last eight years. He is impressed with what he has seen.
"My motivation stems in just continuing that growth in the positive direction it's been going in so far," Johnson said.
Having a background in excavation and construction, Johnson also has experience in management. He was the superintendent during the construction of Park City Medical Center and the Quinn's Recreation Complex. Johnson grew up in Oregon and has been living in Coalville since 2002.
Johnson acknowledged that the new wastewater treatment plant and the bridge going over the Weber River are important issues for Coalville, but he wants to emphasize improving the culinary water system, which he says is "so aged."
"It's really on the verge of being outgrown. That's the next process, replacing and upgrading [the culinary water system] as well as the icy springs tank that holds all the water that's been leaking," Johnson said.
Needed infrastructure repairs Johnson said will be a priority for him as mayor, including finishing up road projects and adding a few more sidewalks.
Regarding development, Johnson suggested a fiscally responsible approach.
"Here's the thing with development as a whole: we need to look at opportunities that have moderate growth that pay their own way," Johnson said.
Steven B. Richins
Steven Richins has 14 years' combined experience on the Coalville City Council and believes that his knowledge of how the city runs would help him create priorities for the city as mayor. He says he is very familiar with the construction that the city would need as well as what needed upgrades to the water system and sewer lines would be.
Richins says that Coalville has had growth issues in the past and that any approach to development won't be rapid.
"I think growth to Coalville will be slow because when people sell their ground off and those other people die, the ground gets divided up more," Richins said. "I think sooner or later there's going to be growth, but I don't think it's going to be all at once."
He also notes that although the city has previously had a business park that has since failed, he thinks that the construction of another business park would attract new businesses, specifically welding shops, Richins said. He has experience in construction and currently has his contractor's license, which he says he will not renew come November.
Arlin B. Judd
Arlin Judd, who is currently serving on the Coalville City Council, has decided to run for mayor because he says there are a number of important projects that need completing.
In deciding to run, Judd said, "It made sense for someone who's familiar with what's going on to follow through on our wastewater facility and other projects."
Judd has also served for 12 years on the North Summit Board of Education and more recently has been on the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission before being elected to the City Council two years ago. He also notes his 40 years of community service in the Lions Club.
"I've lived here for all my life basically," Judd said. "I think I know what the community wants to be and needs to be, and what things we need to do to improve the community."
Judd thinks it is critical that Coalville experience growth, and doubts whether the city has done everything it can to stimulate economic growth.
"We have a desire to maintain the rural community atmosphere that exists in Coalville, but at the same time the cost of providing services and providing what we do continues to increase [for the city]," Judd said.
Judd adds Coalville's population is not growing at the same rate as development, and he wants to look at ways to change that. As far as attracting businesses, Judd posed a "chicken or the egg" question.
"Which needs to come first? A few more homes so that businesses are supported a little better, or a business that may bring that development that may bring that need [to move here] for people?" Judd said. "I'd like to see both but right now there's a very high percentage of consumable dollars that go outside of this community."
Judd owns a few parcels of property in the commercial district as well as a few rental properties, but says that is not an issue in his decision to run for mayor.
"I feel like I have the experience and background [for mayor]," Judd said. "And I'm retired I have the time where I'd be available to answer questions and respond to the needs of the city without any other obligations."
Colton Drae Burgener
Colton Burgener said that when he walked into City Hall to file as a candidate, he was split between the decision to run for City Council or mayor. His experience with networking with the citizens of Coalville he said determined his final choice.
"I decided I'd rather be the hand of the people rather than the voice of the people," Burgener said. "I want to serve the city instead of run the city."
Saying that the executive branch is where he believes he fits best, Burgener says he has observed that the mayor's office has not always worked cooperatively with the City Council. He wants the mayor's office to mesh more with the Council in order to better serve the citizens of Coalville.
Burgener also acknowledged that the wastewater treatment plant is a huge issue, but said he is waiting on the City Council's motion on it before he takes a stance.
Drawing small businesses to town is very important to Burgener, and he points to a 2009 survey in saying that Coalville doesn't seem interested in corporate growth.
"I'm vehemently for small businesses and investors to try their hand at the Coalville market," Burgener said. "I feel that when corporations come into a small town they seem to be a little more lax on who is coming through the door rather than how many are coming through the door."
Focusing on potential development on county or school district property, Burgener says is an option in attracting business.
Burgener believes that his expertise in networking with citizens and promoting Coalville's reputation and representation would make him an ideal mayor. He says he would be able to "notice things the Council hasn't had time to shift over to."
Regardless, Burgener says he is willing to serve Coalville in any way possible going forward.
"I do intend, as mayor or mere citizen, to donate more of my talents to the city," Burgener said.
David Vernon, who currently serves on the Coalville City Council, says he didn't initially plan on running for mayor.
"I had quite a few people around town asking me to," Vernon said. "I hadn't planned on it, and then the more I thought about it I decided I could see some areas where I might be able to help out."
Vernon also sees the wastewater treatment plant as a crucial issue for the city. He touted it as the largest project Coalville has ever undertaken.
Having served on the city's Board of Adjustments and having experience with local businesses, Vernon says he has "a pretty good handle on what's going on here in town."
As far as development is concerned, Vernon says that Coalville "definitely needs more business," including light industrial and manufacturing, but he says the trouble is finding land where businesses can locate, as many who own land seem content to "continue on with farming."
"People who own available land don't seem interested in a light industrial or commercial development," Vernon said. "It's a little hard to have growth when you can't find a place to put it."
However Coalville manages to attract development, Vernon says, a balanced approach needs to be taken.
"We need some of that type of growth (light industrial) to encourage residential growth. You can't have one without the other," Vernon said.
Early voting is open for the Coalville mayoral primary election from now until Friday, August 9. Residents may cast ballots at the Coalville City Hall, 10 N. Main Street, between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays during this time. Voters will have another chance to vote in the primary on Tuesday, August 13. The main election will be held on Tuesday, November 5, between the final two mayoral candidates. For voter registration and election information, visit coalvillecity.org.