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 on his agenda 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 was elected county mayor, McAdams is known for building consensus among parties and across political lines.
“Salt Lake County is in a different place than it was 20 years ago. Back then, it was a sea of open space. Now we are a large metro area. It’s time for us to break down walls and work more collaboratively as a metropolitan area,” 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.
McAdams acknowledged that at times there have been tensions between the cities and county government, and among the cities themselves.
“I hope to put those tensions to rest and find collaboration and leadership among local government,” he said.
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 also sees a need to regionalize services such as public works or animals services where they make sense.
“Having multiples made sense when cities were islands dotting the map. Merging services where appropriate can mean providing a higher level of service at a lower cost,” he said.
I don’t care who ploughs my street,” he said. “I just care that it’s done and I don’t pay any more than I have to.”
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.”
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.