Salt Lake County moves forward with new leader
New Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams thinks his predecessor Peter Corroon did a great job. Nevertheless, one of the first things he plans to do is a top-to-bottom review of county services.
“Budgets are developed over the course of several months,” he said. “[Mayor Corroon and the county council] have done a lot of work and a lot of homework putting this [2013 budget] together. We will make do with what they give us.”
McAdams and his team will look at “finding efficiencies. Some may take several years to implement,” he said.
A corporate finance attorney who was a senior adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker until he took the position as county mayor, McAdams is known for building consensus among parties and across political lines.
“I’ve spent the last five years working in local government. I’ve enjoyed being in a position to give to my community. I’ve been able to help shape our community and make it a better place,” he said.
McAdams first entered politics when he served out the remainder of Sen. Scott McCoy’s term after he stepped down. He was re-elected in 2010 and served Senate District 2 representing Salt Lake City, West Valley City and South Salt Lake until he resigned his seat after his November victory.
Of that time, McAdams is most proud of legislation he introduced which he said gives Utah citizens tools to crack down on security fraud and predatory investment scams.
Representing both residents and their leaders in municipalities and those in unincorporated areas can be very challenging, he said.
“The county wearing two hats has presented some frustration: residents feel underrepresented; city leaders feel underrepresented,” he said.
McAdams would like to see changes made to the county government structure, so that where it makes sense, specific county employees would serve regional goals while others would be tasked with taking care of the day-to-day needs of residents, particularly in the unincorporated areas.
He has already created the new position of township executive to focus attention on the unincorporated areas of the county and filled it with former Public Works Director Patrick Leary. He has appointed former Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall as public works and regional development director.
McAdams believes the recent defeat of an incorporation initiative in Millcreek was “a resounding response that many residents are happy with the status quo and content with the services they receive.”
McAdams said that the input of community councils, such as the four that serve Millcreek, is “incredibly valuable” for community concerns and input.
“Community councils are an important source of that input. I don’t want to lose the character of the individual communities,” he said. “Maintaining that character is important. I plan to support community-building activities. One of the functions of county government is to help build community and maintain quality of life.”
McAdams will continue open door meetings with residents, visiting community councils on a regular basis and attending community events such as Venture Outdoors Festival with his family.
A believer in government transparency, McAdams said, “I think it’s okay for the people to see that government can be messy, see our disagreements, see things unscripted. I’m comfortable pulling back the curtain. It’s sometimes not pretty, but it’s the system our Founding Fathers intended.”
And when his time as mayor is said and done, he hopes that people will say of him that he and his administration laid a good foundation for the future, that he pulled the cities and county together, that he reinvented county government and set a solid footing for the future.
“As we become a major metropolitan area, I hope we can maintain that small-town feel that makes this such a great place to live,” he said.
McAdams and his wife Julie, an attorney in the University of Utah’s general counsel’s office, have four children: twins James and Katie, 7, Robert, 4, and Isaac, 1. Living in the Avenues part of Salt Lake City, McAdams is a bee-keeper and gardener.
And just what does their dad being county mayor mean to the kids?
They were most excited about his win when they learned that would mean they’d get to ride in parades every year for a while, he said.
And with 16 parades every summer, the McAdams children will have a lot of riding in the county’s big yellow school bus.