At an election-night party on Tuesday, Niehaus, the executive director of Community Rebuilds, was gracious in her victory speech and said win or lose, she was still intent on serving Moab now and in the years to come.
“I am very thankful to the voters,” Niehaus said. “We have a bunch of cool things to do in Moab and this election has been less about platform and more about priorities. We have to support the city staff and the city council to finish the projects we have in the pipeline currently, on time and under budget. I also feel like being mayor is going to be the ultimate service I can give to the city and the community.”
During her campaign for mayor, Niehaus ran on a platform of affordable — and available — housing in Moab. She also told The Times-Independent she wanted to “prioritize housing and other critical infrastructure and economic development work by connecting residents and business owners with resources, working with and supporting staff and council to clarify our city’s policies and procedures, and leading our community in developing a new vision for Moab that we produce together.”
Olsen, the former community development director for the City of Moab, ran on a platform of improving Moab’s infrastructure and executing the goals and recommendations of the Moab General Plan, the 2017 Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan and master plans dealing with infrastructure improvements.
Niehaus will take her seat in January, replacing current mayor David Sakrison, who has held the seat for the past 16 years. Sakrison said he is pleased to be leaving the office he has held for four full terms, mostly because he has a list of chores to do around the house.
“I have a ‘honey-do’ list a mile long,” Sakrison told The Times-Independent on Tuesday. “It’s going to be nice to learn how to say ‘no’ again, because building consensus on the council and in the mayor’s office has been a priority for me ... and I have no plans at the moment except to clean out my basement. My wife, I’m sure, has some major plans for me. I think [Niehaus] is going to have to institute the vision of bringing the community together so projects like affordable housing, and those types of issues, get completed. She is going to have a lot of ongoing challenges, but she will nurture and promote our relationship with the state and other leaders. All in all, with this election, I think we’re in pretty good shape. I’m optimistic about the future."
In the race to fill the seats open by the departure of city council members Kyle Bailey and Heila Ershadi, business owner Karen Guzman-Newton and engineer Mike Duncan prevailed, with Guzman-Newton garnering 1,096 votes and Duncan receiving 926 votes. Two other city council candidates, Brian Ballard and Cassie Patterson, finished with 731 votes and 421 votes, respectively. A total of 3,174 ballots were cast in the city council race.
Looking ahead, Guzman-Newton said she is looking forward to the challenge — and the chance to serve — her election to the council will bring.
“The biggest thing ahead is to get people involved in the city government process,” Guzman-Newton said. “It doesn’t stop here. People make a difference and I discovered that when I was attending council meetings ... every individual’s voice matters and I want the people to keep my feet to the fire.”
In terms of Duncan’s plans for the future, he said he has something of a laundry list in mind once he takes his seat in January.
“I’ve been compiling a list of both big issues and small issues,” Duncan said. “The big issues are the ones that we’re all familiar with, like affordable housing, congested streets and economic diversification. Those are big on my hit list, but I have also been compiling concerns from individuals like flooded streets, broken streetlights and little things like that, which affect quality of life. A lot of people are worried about running over tourists on a side street on a dark night because the lights aren’t bright enough. There are little things we can work on and that is my intent.”
The results of the mayoral and city council elections will not be official until a one-week canvassing period is complete and the Grand County canvassing board certifies the results. Niehaus, Guzman-Newton and Duncan will be sworn in just prior to the regular Jan. 9, 2018 meeting of the Moab City Council at Moab City Hall.