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Today's word on

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Those were the days:

"The way I had it is all gone now. The bars are
gone, the drinkers, gone. There remain the smartest, healthiest newspeople in the history of the business. And they are so boring that they kill the business right in front of you."

--Jimmy Breslin, newspaper columnist, 1996 (Thanks to alert WORDster Jim Doyle)


Making the best of a coin flip, and the city's top job, in Millville

By Chris Calvert

January 25, 2005 | Two-hundred-meter and 400-meter world record holder Michael Johnson and Millville mayor Michael Johnson have more in common than just the same name.

Both have, through hard work, dedication and determination, tried to be the best they can.

After a year as Millville's mayor, Johnson said feels he is doing a good job as that city's chief administrator.

However, the fact that he is the mayor and not someone else came down to pure chance.

When the former mayor resigned for personal reasons Johnson said two citizens, he and fellow Millville resident Guy Curtis, vied for the position of mayor. Since city code said no general election was needed to fill the remaining time in the former mayor's term, the five-member City Council had the responsibility of choosing.

Johnson said he was a member of the council at the time and so he didn't vote. The remaining four members were split in a 2-2 tie. The council voted again, with the same outcome. In a situation like this Utah state law dictates the decision be made with a coin flip.

"Guy called it tails and it was heads," Johnson said.

He said it was somewhat ironic that the two council members who voted for him are no longer on the council. He said it was somewhat more ironic that his opponent, Curtis, as well as the two council members who voted against him are currently sitting on the council.

"They could, if they wanted to, gang up against me and vote down any idea I may recommend. But I think these guys know I'm trying to do my best and they respect that," said Johnson.

He also said most of the decisions the council makes are unanimous, and that they try to run as a unified group. He said a lot about being the mayor is building relationships with the council members, to try to gain their support, respect, and trust. He said when you've done that they will accept the advice and council you are giving them when they make their decisions.

Making the decisions that affect the laws and ordinances is what Johnson said he missed most about being on the council. He had served for roughly five years before becoming mayor, and as mayor he no longer gets to vote on legislation.

"As mayor I oversee the council meetings, can give advice and comments to the council, and I can break a 2-2 tie if one of the council members doesn't vote, but I miss making the decisions," said Johnson.

When making the decisions, the mayor said they "may not be as quick as other communities, but in the end things get done right, for the most part."

Johnson said the reason things get done right is because of his staff.

"We have a great group of guys on the council, sometimes we have words, you tell them what you think, but you're all adults and when its over you move on," said Johnson. "Also, Rose Mary Jones, city recorder, and Tara Hobbs, city treasurer, are great. When I ask them to do something, I know it will be done, and done well."

Jones, who has been the recorder for 21 years said she thought Johnson was doing a very effective job as mayor.

Jones said, "He has excellent public relations skills, he is very thorough and detail oriented, and when he takes on a new task he will do a great job on it from start to finish."

Jones said one of Johnson's best attributes as mayor is his willingness to take the extra time needed to go the extra mile. She said his personality puts people at ease, and that is a reason he has been such a good mayor.

Johnson said the best thing about being mayor is meeting new people and building new relationships with them.

He said, "I enjoy meeting the people. I enjoy being involved, learning new things, and staying on top of things."

It was his trying to "stay on top of things" that lead to his becoming involved in politics.

"I live on 450 North and at the time there were some things happening in my neighborhood," he said. "I attended city council meetings because I wanted to stay involved in what was happening. Then a seat opened up on the council and I took it."

As mayor, Johnson said there were a few things he would like to see happen. He said he and the council were working on getting another city park in the area. He said most of the new developments were coming in on the north side of town, but the only big park was on the very southeast part of town.

He said his vision is to have smaller parks throughout the city where the families are.
Another project he said he would like to see completed is a second water reservoir to better serve the people on the east side of the city who have little water pressure in their homes.

Also, Johnson said he has mixed feelings about the idea the city council has been considering for a while concerning having Millville change from septic tanks to a sewer system.

"There are good and bad things about the sewer project," Johnson said. "The good thing about not having a sewer is residents don't have to pay $45 a month on sewer services. The bad thing is with septic tanks there is always the possibility of some of that stuff can get into the aquifer. We have clean water here and that hasn't been a problem, but with septic tanks it is a possibility."

Johnson said the biggest obstacle he faced as mayor is money.

"Lack of money. We've got limited revenue. We charge enough to cover our expenses and put a little away, but it's all we can do to maintain basic services."

Johnson said one of the reasons they have limited revenue is the lack of large businesses in Millville. Half of a business' sales tax goes directly to the city it is located in; the other half goes to the county to be distributed to all of the remaining communities based on population. Since Millville has few large businesses and a relatively small population it gets a very small amount of money from the county.

Johnson said in the future he hopes to see some bigger businesses in the city, he said a good place for them would be along Highway 165. However, Johnson said he sees the future of Millville as a growing "bedroom community."

"Millville is a great place to live. It has great people, it's a great community. It is close enough to all of the amenities of the valley, but still somewhat secluded," said Johnson.


Copyright 1997-2004 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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