Dana Williams, activist-turned-politician, will not seek re-election
Mayor Dana Williams, the activist-turned-politician who took office just weeks before the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics and then served through one of Park City’s great boom eras before the grip of the recession took hold, will not seek re-election this year.
His political plans had been closely guarded in recent months, and the announcement of his decision was seen as one of the highly anticipated events of the early election season. Williams, who is 58 years old and lives in Prospector, is one of the most successful politicians in Park City’s modern era, winning each of his three mayoral terms by wide margins.
Williams said in an interview on Monday he made the decision three weeks ago during a trip to Oregon and after talking with his family. He said he spent "four months of agony" considering whether to seek re-election before the trip to Oregon.
"I’ve been exceedingly honored and proud to represent them," Williams said of the people of Park City, adding that Parkites were always given consideration when decisions were made at City Hall.
Williams recently said he would publicize his decision once a new Park City manager was hired. That was done last week as Diane Foster, who had been the interim city manager since last August, was selected for the permanent job.
Williams won elections in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The elections in 2001 and 2009 were fiercely competitive as Williams appeared on the ballot against top-tier opponents — Fred Jones in 2001 and Brad Olch in 2009. He beat each of them easily on Election Day, however. He was unchallenged when he was re-elected in 2005, a rarity in modern-day Park City politics.
He came to political prominence in the 1990s as the leader of the development watchdog Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth. He was especially visible in the late 1990s as the group led the opposition to the development that was eventually built as Empire Pass.
Williams has positioned himself well politically during his administration with a wide-ranging platform. He has been a chief supporter of City Hall’s broad environmental program, but he also sees economic expansion as something that can be accomplished alongside the green efforts. The Park City economy fared better than many others during the worst of the recession and has rebounded well.
The election season will officially start in June with the opening of the two-week window when candidates must submit campaign paperwork. If more than two people seek the mayor’s office, a primary would be held to reduce the field to two for Election Day in November. Two City Council seats are also on the ballot this year.
The decision by Williams not to seek re-election will almost certainly influence some people to consider a campaign since a popular incumbent will not be on the ballot. Andy Beerman, a first-term member of the Park City Council, said recently he is mulling a mayoral campaign. Nobody else has publicly stated an interest in a campaign for the mayor’s office. The winner will be sworn in as the next mayor in early January. Williams said he is unsure what role he may have during the upcoming election season.
Williams outlined an ambitious agenda for the remaining nine months of his term. He wants major decisions made about regulating and storing contaminated soils as well as regarding waterworks projects. He said, meanwhile, he wants significant progress made in designing the redevelopment of the lower Park Avenue corridor. A decision about the future of the Rocky Mountain Power site in Bonanza Park is also pending, he noted.
The mayor said he would like two or three additional major conservation purchases finalized. Williams said it is "possible" that an agreement with the Treasure development partnership can be reached before the end of the term.
Once he retires from the mayor’s office, Williams said, he will seek full-time employment in the private or not-for-profit sectors. He said he might seek consulting work in the community visioning or sustainability fields.
He plans to remain in Park City. Williams was a real estate agent for years, rising through the ranks of the firm where he worked. He lost a high-level position with the firm in mid-2008, as the national economy was teetering. Williams said he does not plan to return to the real estate industry.
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