OGDEN CITY COUNCIL
Hopefuls spar over leadership style, airport operations
BY TIM VANDENACK
OGDEN — Leadership focus, the Ogden Nature Center and management of Ogden-Hinckley Airport figure big in the contest for the At-Large A seat on the Ogden City Council — judging by responses from the hopefuls at a debate, anyway.
Incumbent Marcia White, seeking her second term, and Lew Wheelwright, challenging her for the post, faced off at a candidate forum Thursday night, touching on those issues and more. Bart Blair, seeking his third term in the At-Large B post, also addressed the gathering at Union Station here, though his challenger, Mary Khalaf, didn’t attend.!
White stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility and emphasized her organizational skills and familiarity with the process of getting things done at City Hall.
"It’s going to take people who understand how to look at budgets, how to look at revenue and how to look at expenses,"
she said. While it may not excite broad public interest, one of her proudest accomplishments, she said, was helping implement longer-term, five-year budget planning.
Wheelwright, a businessman and chiropractor, said if voters want to maintain the status quo, he’s not their guy.
Sometimes leaders need to shake ! things up to get things done, he said, and he also sounded sup! port for minimizing government intrusion into private business.
"I do come in to it as a disruptive force if I get in," Wheelwright said.
Even so, he also said he analyzes the data at hand in making decisions and would bring a businessman’s perspective to the council. "We’re going to have to run the city more like a business, not like a club," he said.
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The League of Women Voters of Weber County and Junior League of Ogden hosted Thursday’s gathering, which drew about 50 people. The candidates for the Ward 1 and Ward 3 posts, also up for grabs, met Wednesday.
Airport: Dissatisfaction with management of the city-owned Ogden airport pushed Wheelwright into the City Council race, hoping to be able to spur change as an elected official. Wheelwright, a pilot, owns hangars at the airport and decries eventual plans to build a parking lot where one of his hangars sits, which he says reduces the property’s value.
"That has been a totally ill-managed deal," said Wheelwright, who’s focused his displeasure on Jon Greiner, the airport manager.
White sai! d the germane issue relative to the airport is reducing the cost the city incurs in managing it, up to $500,000 some years. City leaders have been seeking more commercial flights out of the airport to that end, which White lauded.
"The conversation we need to have is finding solutions to make it solvent," she said.
Commercial service is a key prong of airport operations, Wheelwright
said. But general aviation activity — private pilot operations, for instance — is also key, and growth prospects in the commercial sector are probably limited.
"A lot of people will say we can be a regional airport. Probably won’t happen," Wheelwright said, noting! the proximity of the mountains of the Wasatch Front and the r! elatively short runway here.
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The Ogden City Council At-Large A candidates, incumbent Marcia White, right, and Lew Wheelwright, met at a candidate forum Thursday, Oct 27, 2017, at Union Station.
As to Wheelwright’s criticism of airport management, White noted that city council members typically recuse themselves on issues if they have a financial interest, an apparent reference to her challenger’s ownership of hangars at the airport. Beyond that, oversight of Greiner falls to Mayor Mike Caldwell, not the city council.
Ogden Nature Center: Kerry Wayne of Marriott-Slaterville has injected himself into the Ogden City Council races, distributing fliers critical of White, Blair and Doug Stephens, a city councilman up for re-election in the Ward 3 race. Wayne maintains they haven’t done enough to protect the Ogden Nature Center from encroaching development and the issue came up Thursday.
Charges she hasn’t done enough to protect th! e center are "absolutely false and incorrect," White said. When news of a proposal pushed last summer by Caldwell to allow development on a piece of property adjacent to the center emerged, she immediately called the mayor to voice her displeasure. The plans ultimately fizzled.
Wheelwright zeroed in on Ogden parks officials’ moves to gather up Wayne’s fliers as he
was placing them under car windshield wipers near Lion’s Club Park in Ogden earlier this month. Some fell into the gutter, parks officials say, and they viewed the fliers as litter. Wayne decried the parks officials’ actions, as did Wheelwright.
"That’s a huge concern for me," Wheelwright said. ! "If that’s the case, we have some major issues."Infrastructure, tapping technology
Looking forward, Blair, alone on the stage when it was his turn with forum moderator Adrienne Andrews, said the city’s infrastructure needs attention. The city should also continue to tap technology to better inform the public of municipal matters and do what it can to make Ogden an inviting place.
"One of the strengths of our city is the diversity in it," Blair said.
Khalaf was attending a leadership academy in Phoenix sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, according to a spokesman at Thursday’s forum.
Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.