3 political newcomers, 1 incumbent seeking to fill 2 open seats on Cedar City Council

L-R: Cedar City Council 2021 candidates R. Scott Phillips (incumbent), Ron Riddle, Carter Wilkey and Derek Morton. Photos courtesy of candidates. Background image: photo illustration of campaign buttons by 3dfoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — In the race for Cedar City Council, Derek Morton, Carter Wilkey, and Ron Riddle are political newcomers, while current Councilman Scott Phillips rounds out the field of four. Two seats are available in the upcoming election. 

Downtown Cedar City businesses, Cedar City, Utah, March 17, 2007. | Photo by credit: ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0), Ken Lund, St. George News

Cedar City’s five council members are all at-large, meaning they represent the entire city are not limited to a particular voting district. The other incumbent whose term is set to expire in January is Councilman Ron Adams, who opted not to run again this year after serving three full terms.

The top two vote-getters in the general election will each earn a four-year term on the City Council. Ballots are expected to start showing up in mailboxes this week; voters have until the Nov. 2 Election Day to mark their choices and return their ballots.

Cedar City News recently conducted separate telephone interviews with the four candidates, asking each of them a few questions. Following are their responses, which have been condensed, paraphrased and/or edited for length and clarity.

Question 1:  What personal attributes, attributes, characteristics, skills or experience do you possess that help qualify you for the job?

Morton cited his involvement in various organizations, along with his experience as a property manager.

“I’ve been heavily involved in the community for years, volunteering and participating in different organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Homebuilders Association to People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners.”

Being a property manager, Morton says, has given him a deeper understanding of development and how it impacts people. That background has given him a unique perspective on the housing and poverty issues the community is facing. 

“It’s something that no one else has,” he said.

Wilkey cited his communication skills. 

Campaign photo of Carter Wilkey, candidate for Cedar City Council in the 2021 municipal election. | Photo courtesy of Carter Wilkey, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I think that’s a big one, my ability to communicate, and just be able to really listen to what people say, and to collaborate with those people,” he said.

Wilkey said he also has followed the City Council’s business closely over the past few years and has attended its meetings frequently. He said he has attended more council meetings since 2018 than any of the candidates other than incumbent Scott Phillips.

“That’s one thing that I think I bring to the table, is just having the knowledge of what actually happens at the City Council level,” Wilkey said. 

Riddle spoke of the life experience he’s gained as the longtime owner of a cabinetmaking business.

“I’ve been in business for 32 years,” he said. “I’ve had to work with people constantly.”

Riddle said he also has worked with youth sports teams over the years and has been actively involved in church service.

“And then, raising a family,” he added. “I think that’s a great attribute for somebody who wants to serve their community.”

“Those are the things, I think, that give me the experience I need to be civic-minded and to do a good job.” Riddle added.

Phillips cited his ability to listen to what others have to say.

Well, first of all, I think that I’m a very good listener,” Phillips said. “And I think that’s important because when people come before the council, or if they have issues of great concern, they’re very passionate, and they’re very sincere in their concerns. And so I think we have to listen, with very good open hearts and open minds.

“That being said, it doesn’t mean that we’re always going to come to a complete agreement on things,” he added. “We can’t always fix everything. But we have to be empathetic, and understand that their concerns are coming from very honest and sincere places.”

Phillips said he strives to look at the big picture when it comes to issues affecting the city.

“I look at things I say, ‘Okay, how is this going to impact the majority of the people in our community?’ Not the loudest, not the most vocal? Maybe it’s not even the majority, it might be the minority, but is it going to be the best thing for the community?”

Question 2: What is an important challenge that the city currently faces and what would you do to help solve it?

Morton mentioned three issues in particular, which he said many other communities are also facing.

Campaign photo of Derek Morton, candidate for Cedar City Council in the 2021 municipal election. | Photo courtesy of Derek Morton, St. George News / Cedar City News

“There’s three major crises that we’re dealing with because of the way we’re growing: water, attainable housing and increased poverty levels,” he said.

“So do we just keep doing what every other community does and get the same results and wonder why?” he added. “This is where you’ve got to get proactive. If you look at providing the right kind of housing and development, you can use the same amount of water.”

Greater zoning flexibility, Morton said, would allow developers to provide housing for all socioeconomic spheres. Very few communities have anticipated this and managed to address it while they were growing, he said. “And now, they’re trying to go backwards.”

Wilkey cited growth as the city’s main challenge.

“If you had to put it in one word, it would be growth,” he said. “Because with the growth, there comes the poverty, the homelessness, the need for better infrastructure, our water problems, our drainage issues, our sewer issues and especially, our public safety.”

“To me, it all comes down to sustainability,” Wilkey added. “What is sustainable growth?”

“To me, sustainability is, are we getting what we want today at the expense of what we will need tomorrow?” he said, adding that he plans to make that his mantra or sorts, if elected. “Are we making a decision today and just getting what we want right now, without worrying about what this is going to mean for the future later?”

Wilkey said it is possible, though, to find ways to meet current and future needs at the same time.

“We can have both, but we need to be very conscientious in our decisions,” he added.

Riddle highlighted water as the community’s most important challenge.

“The water issue of Cedar City and Iron County, in our area, is the largest issue there is,” he said. “Whether it’s having to deal with having water so that developers can purchase that water through the city and develop new properties, or just our basic needs for all the people who are already here.”

Riddle said it’s important to determine how much water exists underground.

Campaign photo of Ronald Riddle, candidate for Cedar City Council in the 2021 municipal election. | Photo courtesy of Ron Riddle, St. George News / Cedar City News

We have to use modern science to find out what is in our aquifer, so we really do know and so that we’re not guessing,” he said. “And then continue on the recharge projects, the seven that are in place now, and make sure that they’re workable.”

Riddle says he also supports various water conservation efforts.

“Right now there’s a lot of talk about don’t waste the wastewater, but I think we can do better with that,” he said. “We can maybe use that for some agricultural things, which would allow those agriculture people to turn their pumps off and not take water from the aquifer.”

Phillips cited the city’s “growth spurt” as being a challenge, but also said it’s a good problem to have.

“It’s not like we’re a community that is dying, or that things are moving away,” he said. “Our challenge is, how do we deal with all of this great new growth and prosperity that people want to experience?”

“We always hear about people who want to have their children and their grandchildren stay in the community, get a job and raise a family and buy a home,” Phillips added. “Well, the only way that’s going to happen is if we can continue to foster an economic base that will pay higher wages, that will allow those young people to get jobs once they graduate from our great school systems and our universities, and be able to stay here.”

Managing growth includes focusing on water, sewer, zoning, roads and other related issues, Phillips added, noting that such planning helps set the tone for the city’s future.

“We are going to grow, but we have to do it in a sensible and sustainable manner,” he said.

Question 3: Describe how you resolve differences or conflicts with others.

Morton said that as a property manager, he frequently has to deal with disagreements.

“One of the reasons we’ve had so few court-ordered evictions is that we’re able to sit down and resolve the conflicts long before we get to that point, to find those solutions,” he said.

“Tenants may not always necessarily agree with our opinion,” he added. “We have to balance all the time, the needs of the tenants with the needs and rights of the owners. Typically, what everything comes down to is going, ‘Okay, where are they coming from?’”

Morton said solutions are usually possible when both sides make a collaborative effort to figure out the root of the problem.

“Even if they may still disagree, at least they know exactly where you’re coming from,” he said.

Wilkey, who has taken university courses on conflict resolution, said he’s learned that communication is essential.

“Good, open communication, and respect,” he said. “And so what I mean by that is with communication, oftentimes, it’s misunderstanding that something’s going to happen, when really that’s not what’s going to happen.”

“Unfortunately, in most decisions, somebody is going to walk away feeling like the winner, and somebody is going to walk away feeling like the loser,” Wilkey added. “In situations where you can come up with a compromise where both parties walk away feeling great, that’s obviously the ultimate goal.”

Campaign photo of R. Scott Phillips, incumbent candidate for Cedar City Council in the 2021 municipal election. | Photo courtesy of R. Scott Phillips, St. George News / Cedar City News

“There are some decisions that are going to be made where one person is going to get their way and the other person is not going to get their way. That does happen,” he said. “I think it just comes down to having good communication skills, and having, having respect for people as citizens, as voters, as taxpayers and just as human beings. Just because you disagree with somebody on something does not make the other person a bad person, and it doesn’t make them your enemy.”

Riddle said it’s important for elected officials to act in accordance with what’s best for the community.

“I think the first thing that we have to do in those situations is educate ourselves about both sides,” Riddle said, adding that each side needs to listen to the other’s point of view.

 “We can do that civilly, even though we don’t agree, and then really work for the best outcome for the city,” Riddle added. “It shouldn’t be about what we personally want as a city council or as an elected official, but what is best for the city. Now it may be what’s best for the city is best for us also, but the city is a collective thing, not a personal thing.”

Riddle also said it’s important to be respectful and truthful.

“If we’re being honest about what we’re doing and then working through it with people in a reasonable manner, I think we can work through it,” he said.

Phillips said it is important for those who disagree with something, to be willing to suggest alternative ideas or solutions.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, this isn’t working, I don’t like this. This doesn’t work for me,’” he said. “Okay, then, do you have an example? Or do you have some ideas, or something that we might consider that might work?”

Phillips also referred to the phrase “a more perfect union” in the U.S. Constitution, saying it suggests that perfection is but a work in progress.

“That’s not to say that we are there. We’re trying to form a more perfect union or a more perfect city,” he said. “And you take it one step at a time, and hope that today is going to be better than yesterday, and it’s going to be even better tomorrow.”

“That’s the kind of thing you have to look at when you’re trying to get people to at least come to an agreement on places where they might disagree.” Phillips added.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 election by clicking here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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