Race for Coalville mayor includes familiar figures
Primary election pits incumbent against City Councilor and former mayor
The mayoral race in Coalville City is pitting an incumbent against a current City Councilor and three-term former mayor.
Mayor Trever Johnson, Tyler Rowser and Merlyn Johnson are contending for the city’s top position in the primary election in August. Voters will be required to reduce the field to two before Aug. 15.
Each candidate has successfully won campaigns for leadership positions within the city. However, their chances of moving beyond the primary will likely depend on what they envision for the city as growth, transportation and infrastructure challenges arise.
Johnson, who is currently in his first-term as mayor, is hoping to retain his seat by appealing to the community’s desire to reinvigorate the city’s economy and provide future opportunities for the next generation. Johnson earned 64 percent of the votes in 2013 when he was elected.
“You hear a lot of stories about what Coalville used to be with all of the gas stations, movie theaters and car dealerships. But, every time that is brought up, it is sort of in the context of these fond memories,” Johnson said. “If we are not ready and willing to have growth it will die on the vine. A rising tide lifts all boats and I have four kids in the system so providing opportunities for them is important to me.”
Johnson said the city’s infrastructure shortcomings were evident early on in his administration. He said the city was unable to supply water to the boundaries of the city and the storage system is often within hours of running out of supply. During his tenure, the city completed the $11 million waste water treatment facility plant.
“We now have a water master plan that we have been working on for about a year and we are moving forward with that project,” Johnson said.
Johnson also expressed plans to address the city’s zoning and building codes to invite more economic and residential growth.
“It eventually does come down to density, but more than that it is landowners having the freedom to do with what they want to do with their land,” Johnson said. “We have properties where you want your kids to inherit your land, but then it gets chopped and divided to where it is difficult to make a living and you are really restricted with what you can do with your land.”
Johnson, a former three-term Coalville City mayor and two-term City Council member who, despite his last name, is not related to the current mayor, said the city needs a leader with a more conservative outlook on fiscal spending.
“I suspect we still have a lot of senior citizens that are on social security checks, which aren’t very much, and these new projects are going to cost them more than they can afford,” Johnson said.
In his view, while the city’s economy has remained stagnant in recent years, partnerships with organizations such as the Governor’s Economic Council could help spur further development within the city.
“We have lost a lot of our tax base and I think we need to get tied up with the state economic council,” Johnson said. “We were tied up with them before when I was mayor and we thought we had some good things going and they sort of turned sour. We had plans for a business park and new hotel and housing and the whole bit, but it just didn’t happen that way.”
Johnson touted his education, including a master’s degree in administration. The former educator said he is “well-qualified to be mayor again.”
“I’ve been thinking about it for about a year and I think served the people well when I was mayor,” Johnson said. “We did a lot of things during those periods because we got secondary water systems to help save our culinary water, we got perpetual care in our cemetery instead of having a weed patch and increased our water production.
“I’m proud of the things I have been involved in while I have been in government and I think sometimes people run for office for either the glory or the money, but I don’t need either one of those,” he said.
Rowser, who is currently serving his first term on the city council, said the current administration
“is sitting back and not doing much of anything.”
Rowser said the city is not progressing and is, instead, losing major events that are significant draws for the community, such as the annual car show.
“We shouldn’t do away with something that was going on for 25 years to focus solely on something else,” Rowser said. “I think those kinds of events bring people from outside of the community and when we do things as a community it brings us together.”
One of the major issues within the current administration is city leaders, including Johnson, advocating for more density, Rowser said.
“Right now our mayor is encouraging more density outside of the city and on properties above us that would not be serviced by our municipal sewer and culinary water systems,” Rowser said. “It’s all above us and that will eventually affect our ability to provide for our residents.”
Rowser said the city should be re-examining the current zoning ordinances and not “just putting more septic tanks into the ground.” He said “change is inevitable,” but the city needs to work with landowners more to make better decisions for the community as a whole.
“As we have growth, we should be working with the landowners or the developers to get what they need, while not negatively affecting their neighbors. We are not going to stop growth. You have land and you have rights to use that land for stuff so let’s make sure we are doing it in a responsible manner.
“I have an open mind to look at things and I don’t get trapped in that square box,” he said. “This is how it has been for several years. I am not afraid to go ask other people for advice because we can learn from other people’s successes and mistakes in other communities outside of Coalville.”
Vote by mail
Coalville will be conducting a vote by mail election this year. Ballots will be sent July 25 and must be postmarked by Aug. 14 or placed in a dropbox through Aug. 15. The votes will be tallied Aug. 15.
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