A new era dawns at City Hall | ParkRecord.com

A new era dawns at City Hall

 Mayor Nann Worel, an ‘eternal optimist,’ hopes to make progress on community’s pressing issues

The problems confronting Park City stretch back years, if not decades. Traffic congestion, for instance, is not a recent phenomenon, while the origins of the affordable housing crisis predate even the 2002 Winter Olympics. 

But while the issues the community is grappling with are old, the institution that shoulders more responsibility than any other to address them — City Hall — is entering a new era under the leadership of Nann Worel, who captured the mayor’s office in November and was sworn in early this year. 

Worel, who served on the Park City Council for six years before rising to the Marsac Building’s top post, said she’s not naive about the challenges her administration will face over the next four years. She knows Parkites are frustrated with the amount of change the community has experienced and understands why they worry about the future given the pressures Park City faces from forces such as development, growth and tourism. 

“People are praying for a balance between our local way of life, our local population and our residents, and the visitors,” she said. “(I heard) somebody put it really well when they said the balance between the lifestyle residents want and what our tourists are demanding. And I think that is a real challenge for us to come up with some innovative ways to make sure that we do maintain our sense of community. And that’s getting more and more difficult.”

Yet, as a self-described “eternal optimist,” Worel insists it’s not too late for the community to chart a course where the things that drew many Parkites here in the first place — or kept them here — are still present decades into the future. 

“We’re all trying to say, ‘What is the city? What is it going to be going forward?’” she said. “And how do we preserve what’s really special about Park City, what makes us all love to get up every day and say, ‘Gosh, I’m glad I live here.’ That’s the challenge.”

As Worel and her administration embark on confronting that challenge, one of her first priorities will be looking outward — as in engaging with Park City’s neighboring communities. She said the growth in the places surrounding Park City, such as the Snyderville Basin and Jordanelle area, means the town does not control its fate by itself. 

Worel campaigned on the promise of ushering in a new approach to regional collaboration and said City Hall must find common cause with the County Courthouse and the municipalities along the Wasatch Back in order to make progress on the key issues. 

“You start by sitting down with all of our regional partners and talking about ‘How do we work together on this? How do we mitigate what you’re doing?’” she said. “I’ve had two municipalities reach out to me since I’ve been elected wanting to collaborate, wanting to sit down at the table. I’m looking forward to those conversations with our partners. We’ve got to start there. We can’t do it in a vacuum.”

Worel also hopes to harness the power of Parkites themselves. She said there is a tremendous amount of untapped “human capital” in Park City — people with work experience related to the community’s issues who have moved here in recent years. She’s betting many of those people are eager to be part of the local conversation. 

She pointed to affordable housing as one example. City Hall in 2016 set an ambitious goal of adding 800 affordable units to the housing stock by 2026 but has significant ground to cover over the next four years to meet that mark. According to the City Hall website, 133 units have been completed and 372 units are “upcoming,” leaving a shortfall of nearly 300 units that have not been identified or funded. 

“Let’s pull in people who’ve had careers in affordable housing in other parts of the country and involve them,” she said. “‘What’s new and creative, what have you seen happen in whatever part of the country you were in that was effective there? What can we learn from that and how can we use that?’”

Aiding Worel as she attempts to move the ball forward will be an eager group of elected officials by her side. Three of the five members of the Park City Council are new to their roles — Jeremy Rubell and Tana Toly were elected in November, while Ryan Dickey was appointed in January to fill the seat vacated by Worel — while another, Max Doilney, is in the middle of his first term. Only Becca Gerber, who was first elected in 2015, has served for longer than two years. 

For her part, Worel said she’s invigorated by the fresh perspectives the newcomers have brought to the Marsac Building and encouraged by some of the ideas the five city councilors have already offered. 

At the same time, she understands the pressure is on. Amid the rapid changes the community has endured, Parkites are looking to City Hall for answers and are growing increasingly impatient with the status quo. And the responsibility of ensuring the municipal government is successful as it attempts to preserve the community’s authenticity and the Park City way of life falls largely on her shoulders. 

It’s what she signed up for when she mounted a mayoral campaign and, later, took the oath of office. 

“I think people feel like the can has been kicked down the road,” she said, “and they’re ready to see some solutions.”

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