PROVIDENCE – The city’s mayoral race will be trimmed from three candidates to two after the primaries on Aug. 15. According to the city’s website, the election will be by mail only.
John Drew, Brent Larsen and Kirk Allen each declared their candidacy.
CacheValleyDaily.com spoke with each of the three candidates hoping to replace current mayor Don Calderwood.
John Drew said he has enjoyed his time on the City Council, but his term is coming to an end. He said Providence is in the midst of “enormous change” that the city is unprepared for, but believes he has the necessary skill and talent to lead it in the right direction.
“I see that the city of Providence has a lot of issues that have not been addressed,” he said, “and I like to say the can has been kicked down the road in the past.”
One of those issues in Drew’s mind is the city’s impact fees. He said some impact fees haven’t been updated in 20 years, which he said means developers aren’t being charged enough and taxpayers are “footing the bill.”
“It’s shortchanging the residents who are already here,” he said, “and I’ve had that conversation with the council and mayor and it kind of seems to go over their head.”
The biggest complaint he said he hears from residents is the condition of the streets. He said there needs to be a plan developed.
“We have – depending on who you ask – 35 to 40 miles of street in our city,” he said. “That translates to about 300 blocks. Do we have a plan for maintaining and repairing the streets in our city and eventually replacing them? We don’t have a plan.”
Another issue, Drew said, is a disconnect between the city government and Providence citizens. He said a feeling of mistrust has discouraged many citizens from volunteering or running for city office, and that it needs to change.
He hopes to be a key part of that change.
“In a sense I feel I have the skill and the talent and I’m excited about making things happen,” Drew said. “I like working with people and I’ve had more than my share of people shaking their finger at me because we disagree, but it’s not about personality, it’s about issues.”
Drew said Mayor Shaun Dustin of Nibley and State Representative Val Potter (R-District 3) both plan on publically endorsing him.
Brent Larsen said he has considered running for mayor the past couple elections, but felt his work kept him from being able to put in the time necessary to serving how he wanted to. After an accident left him unable to work his previous job he decided to devote the extra time to public service.
He said he hopes to initiate some much-needed change.
“I’ve lived in this city for many years and there is so much that needs to be done that has never really been dealt with,” he said. “Maybe we can get some things changed.”
Those changes, he said, would include improving the condition of city streets, constructing new sidewalks and incentivizing businesses to come to Providence to create more tax revenue.
“The roads look horrible,” he said. “A skateboard probably wouldn’t want to go down them, that’s how bad they are. And as far as sidewalks, we don’t have enough of them.”
For Larsen, the lack of sidewalks is a safety concern.
“I think we need to deal with that issue really hard,” he said, “because when somebody walks down the street, it’s not safe.”
He believes giving businesses a five- or 10-year tax incentive would encourage them to come to Providence.
“I’ve seen how Logan City gives the businesses incentive to move into the new areas,” he said. “So I think it would probably work in Providence too.”
Larsen said he was in favor of the recent city manager proposal. He said a professional city manager would bring a perspective and set of skills beneficial to a city like Providence. He said he would also like to see a more strict enforcement of the building code.
Larsen said he has spent the past 15 years in management positions at different companies. The most recent was with MediaOne, where he managed an entire district from Lewiston to Brigham City. He said he believes the experience gained in those management positions have qualified him for mayoral responsibilities.
When it became clear that Mayor Don Calderwood wasn’t planning on seeking another term, Kirk Allen said he was asked by several people if he would consider running. He responded that he wouldn’t, but later changed his mind.
“As things developed and went along I thought we need to give the people in Providence choices,” he said. “I felt that I would do best as one of those choices.”
Allen said he has felt good about many of the things started under Calderwood. He specifically mentioned road repair, park development and the expansion of the business zone as things that had started to occur and that he wants to keep moving.
“Things are happening in our city that follow the city code and adhere to the city ordinances,” he said. “We shouldn’t stray from that.”
Allen said the condition of city roads has been a priority since he joined the City Council two years ago, but that there are limited funds and other important issues to consider as well. He wants to make sure that money is put in the right place.
“Roads are important, but then, so are other things,” Allen said. “Our sewer system is important.”
He said the route to take in regards to the city’s wastewater needs to be further explored, and that he would also like to develop more of a sales tax base.
“We need more businesses down on the highway in our commercial zone,” he said.
Allen discussed his stance on two recent controversial issues. He said he sided with the Providence voters who rejected the city manager initiative and that he is happy the city has new city office building. He likes that it has enough storage space, that it is ADA compliant and that it meets the needs of city staff.
“We took a lot of heat from a group of people over that building,” he said. “There are still people who feel that we were extravagant, but as you look at the details on that building, we got a great office building that people can be proud of.”
Allen said he came to Providence 13 years ago from neighboring River Heights. He said he was an educator for 44 years, and that 25 of those were spent in administration.
“So far I’ve had 44 years of public service,” he said. “I know that it is important to stay in contact with the people … and never forget that you are a public servant.”