Oakley City Council candidates tested at recent forum | ParkRecord.com

Oakley City Council candidates tested at recent forum

Contenders address trails, growth and Weber River Corridor project

The four candidates vying for open seats on the Oakley City Council gathered on Tuesday night for a candidate forum, covering a range of issues that included trails, growth and the Weber River Corridor project.

The candidates – Steve Wilmoth, Stephanie Woolstenhulme, Christopher Hanson and Dave Edmunds — are contending for two four-year seats, currently held by Wilmoth and Kendall "Tiny" Woolstenhulme. Wilmoth, an incumbent, was appointed last year. Both Woolstenhulme and Hanson are Oakley City Planning Commissioners and Edmunds is a former three-term Summit County Sheriff.

More than 50 Oakley residents attended the two-hour panel and submitted questions in advance. Former Summit County Councilor Tal Adair moderated the event, put on by the Oakley Civic Club. The candidates were allowed an introduction, two minutes to answer each question and a three minute closing statement.

"A lot of the questions were about what their vision and priorities are for Oakley," said Trish Murphy-Cone, one of the event's organizers. "A lot also had to do with infrastructure and trails. The passion of the community was overriding. They know change is knocking on the door and, I think, it has everyone a little bit on edge because we really want to hold on to those core values of Oakley."

In separate interviews with The Park Record, each candidate recounted their stances on the issues that were raised during the forum and what their vision for Oakley is.

Wilmoth, a 17-year Oakley resident and manager of a lumber yard in Heber City, said he would like to see Oakley kept as a rural community. He said elected leaders cannot turn growth away and have to be smart about where it is placed.

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"My generation is getting older and people that have land, they are going to want their kids to come stay there," he said. "I am all in support of some of the growth. But, we have to make sure we are following and keeping our core values moving forward."

He expressed his support for trails and the Weber River Corridor project, but said he would never want to force landowners to give up their land to accommodate for either. The Summit Land Conservancy entered into a contract to purchase 23 acres along the Weber River in Oakley to protect river access and preserve water quality.

"Trails is a big one," he said. "I like the trails. I would be in support of the trails. They just need to be done correctly."

Woolstenhulme is a stay-at-home mother and 20-year resident of Oakley. She has served two terms on the Planning Commission. She said she wants to bring balance and diversity to the City Council.

"We need more diversity in terms of age demographics and the female perspective," she said.

Woolstenhulme said she would like to see trails and open space prioritized in the area, with stipulations to prevent "jumbled master planning."

"I think the Weber River Corridor project has a lot of potential," she said. "I would definitely like to see it go through. But, I think we need to be careful how we handle the density changes. We need to ensure the full project goes through and we don't have tiny chunks of trail. l would rather see one big trail coming through our community."

Edmunds, who has lived in Oakley sporadically over the last 24 years, is the executive director of the Utah Communications Authority. He said he wants to help Oakley develop its identity in the midst of the pending growth.

"A lot of communities along the Wasatch Back have done a good job of finding their brand and sticking to it, such as Midway," he said.

As the community grows, Edmunds said, city leaders have to do a better job of ensuring the growth stays in the middle of town rather than the outlying areas.

"I think the trails are very consistent with the vision that I just described," he said. "I'm a huge proponent for the Weber River Corridor project. I think it goes a long way of helping preserve the rural nature of the city itself and makes us responsible stewards if we perform a project like that."

Hanson has lived in Oakley for 10 years and is a second-term planning commissioner. He is an accountant for a local developer. He said he appreciates the community's rural atmosphere and wants to maintain it.

"But, we can't do it by sticking our head in the sand," he said. "We need to plan for it because, no matter what, the growth is coming and I don't feel like we have a plan in Oakley to deal with it."

Hanson said he works closely with the South Summit Trails Foundation and is "all for trails," for both recreation and transportation.

Hanson said his goal, if elected, is to encourage more people to participate in the city's decision making process. He added, "I want to hear from people."

"I feel like Oakley has been has dominated by a few individuals for many years and they have done a good job," he said. "But, if we have a wider group of opinions and views, I feel like we can build upon what is great about Oakley and make it even better."

Summit County is conducting the upcoming municipal election through the mail. Ballots are scheduled to be sent to registered voters on Oct. 17. They must be postmarked and returned no later than Nov. 6. Ballots can also be placed in drop boxes on Election Day.