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West Valley City Journal

Officials swear their commitment, oaths as they enter office

Feb 01, 2018 08:48AM ● By Travis Barton

Councilman Lars Nordfelt speaks after taking his oath of office. He called up his daughter to explain why he chose to run for office. Nordfelt's father served as mayor for West Valley City too. (Kevin Conde/West Valley City)

After taking his oath of office, Councilman at-large Lars Nordfelt called his 13-year-old daughter, Audrey, up to the pulpit to stand with him. Nordfelt was her age when the city was incorporated in 1980. 

“I want her up here to show you my motivation for working in the city,” he said. “I want Audrey to be able to say 37 years from now, that she’s happy to live in West Valley and she’s proud of what it has become. That’s my focus on the council and that’s my dream for this city.” 

Nordfelt was speaking at the swearing-in ceremony where he took the oath of office along with Mayor Ron Bigelow, District 2 Councilman Steve Buhler and District 4 Councilman Jake Fitisemanu Jr., respectively. 

Entering his second term, Nordfelt said he’s known many of the city councilmembers who came before him and understood they had a vision for the city. “They’ve made progress in our city so that now it still is a place that I can live in and be proud to live in.” The same thing he wants for his daughter. 

Fitisemanu Jr., who enters his first term, has two young daughters of his own. The newest councilmember moved into his current house, kitty-corner from the Hunter Library, at the behest of his wife who chose the home while he was out of town. 

“When I got back she told me, ‘Well, Jake, go and sign the papers and get us this house ‘cause I found us our home,’” he recalled. 

He was impressed by the families who surrounded him. A friendly Tongan family across the street, a Ukrainian family with similarly aged daughters and the Vietnamese family with a food truck parked in their garage. (“Oh, I’m going to love these people, we’re going to get along great,” he said.) 

“This house can become a home because of the people who live around us,” Fitisemanu Jr. said. “I think that’s the strength of West Valley City. We’re not just a collection of individual families and individual houses on individual blocks.”

“We are a community and a rapidly growing community, a rapidly diversifying community and I think that is a great asset that we have, and I’m very proud and very honored to represent all those in our community.”

Fitisemanu Jr. is the first Samoan American to serve on the city council. He wore a red lei, which in Samoan custom designates one as chief. 

While good neighbors helped convince the newly elected Fitisemanu Jr. to move into the city, being a good neighbor is what got Buhler elected for a third term, he said. 

“I recognize that I have most likely been elected because I am a good neighbor and not because I am a good politician,” Buhler said. “That is where we, not just us, we—all of us—can have a great effect in making West Valley City what we want it to be, always a better place to live.” 

Buhler promised to be a good neighbor through various pledges such as not having late and loud parties, not parking in front of a neighbor’s home and not having constant yard sales. He also pledged to support and sustain the city’s efforts to improve the streets they live on with community policing, National Night Out Against Crime, the English language initiative, community education partnership and bulky waste removal. 

He called upon residents to be good people. “Good neighbors make good cities.” 

Bigelow, now in his second term, is the eighth mayor of Utah’s second largest city. Having also served in the House of Representatives, he said this was his 10th time taking the oath for office. 

“I’m very grateful to the citizens of West Valley for their confidence in me,” the former accountant said. “I will do everything I can to fulfill the duties they have assigned me.” 

Bigelow highlighted two areas he wants to focus on during his (potentially) final term in office: neighborhoods and residents. 

He said he will support increasing the priority of funding for safety, sidewalks, streets and the aesthetic for residents’ homes and yards. 

“We can maintain the rights of property owners while at the same time making sure that health, safety and quality of life are not reduced by the action of another,” Bigelow said.  

  As for residents, they need to be informed, essential services provided and their concerns responded to, he said. The mayor also highlighted the need to help the homeless and seniors. 

“In reality, government is about people,” he said. 

The ceremony also saw other officials attend such as Salt Lake County Council members Aimee Winder Newton and Richard Snelgrove, representatives Mike Winder, Elizabeth Weight and Craig Hall as well as senator Karen Mayne. 

While Bigelow and Nordfelt represent the entire city, Buhler and Fitisemanu Jr. represent specific districts of the city. 

Buhler’s District 2 covers what is considered the downtown section from 4700 South to 3500 South that incorporates City Hall and Valley Fair Mall. Fitisemanu Jr.’s District 4 is the largest district geographically covering the southwest portion of the city.