Mayor sees himself as having brought efficiency and humor to the job.
After six years on the city council, Troy Walker ran a successful campaign for mayor with the slogan Draper Forward. That became the city’s slogan once he assumed office. Now, after 17 months at the helm of a city with a population of 45,000 and growing, Walker reflects on the job that’s taken more time than he anticipated and one that he hopes he’s brought some humor to.
“There’s only one direction you can go and that’s forward. You just as well try and move things forward best you can. We obviously can’t go back and be a farming community. My goal is to keep us on the right track and develop the right amount of business mix and remaining residential so we have the right tax base so we can pay our bills,” Walker says.
The biggest surprise about the job for Walker has been the amount of time it takes.
“Although it’s a part time job, there’s something to do every day,” he says.
The mayor and his family moved to Draper from Sandy nearly 11 years ago, prompted by their search for a bigger home and his wife Stefani’s desire for a larger yard and garden. The Walkers have been married for 25 years and they have four children. Daughter Emma just earned her associate degree and works as a CNA while son Dallas will be serving in the Utah National Guard after finishing training next fall. Son James attends Summit Academy High School where he wrestles and plays football. And daughter Grace, who plays volleyball and competitive soccer, attends Summit Academy Junior High.
Walker grew up in the military, living on army posts, including six years in Hawaii. At the age of 15 he moved to Utah. He graduated from Alta High in 1985, served an LDS mission to San Diego, then pursued an associate degree from Salt Lake Community College. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Utah and is a graduate of Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon. He’s been practicing law for 20 years, the last seven out of his office in Draper.
Those in attendance at city council meetings will find Walker working to wrap up business by 10 p.m.
“I don’t see any reason not to do the people’s business efficiently. We’ve implemented a time limit. It gives you time to say something but it keeps the business moving along,” he says. Those who attend the every-other Tuesday meetings will also find Walker lightening the tone of the city’s business with humor. “We have a good time together. I like to rib my fellow council members whenever I can. I try to make it fun and keep it from being so serious.”
Being a joker himself, what the mayor initially thought was a gag e-mail proved to be an authentic interview request and a resulting mention of Draper in The New Yorker magazine. “I thought it was a joke, one of my buddies messing with me. At first I wasn’t sure it was legit,” says Walker, who responded to the magazine’s second request for an interview.
Draper’s Forward movement, and that of Utah, in attracting high-tech companies to move to the state was mentioned in that magazine’s February edition in an article titled, How Utah Became The Next Silicon Valley. Walker was the only mayor quoted in the article that also mentioned Draper’s rapid growth from a “quiet agricultural village” to one that courts businesses for the tax revenue they provide as well as one that advocated for light-rail to come to the city. Walker told the magazine’s reporter that he believes Draper’s population will likely reach one hundred thousand in the not so distant future.
And Walker does believe Utah will be the next Silicon Valley, given its relatively low cost of living, outdoor opportunities, an educated workforce supported by local universities, and what he calls a “good corporate tax structure that makes good business opportunities.”
Walker takes advantage of outdoor opportunities himself by taking his mountain bike to Draper’s trails often for exercise.
“I love riding Corner Canyon. Ghost Falls is probably my favorite trail,” he says.
Walker’s biggest hope for Draper’s future?
“We have an opportunity to develop that prison site to its best and highest use, not only for our community, but for the county and the state,” he says. He describes it as “a slate to develop for our economic future.”
“People come to me and always say what a wonderful place Draper is. I couldn’t think of a better place to live. I think our future looks good.” With his trademark chuckle, he adds that perhaps the shores of Hawaii might be better than Draper, but likely only for a short period of time.
Walker acknowledges that he’s had thoughts of political roles beyond that of mayor, though he’s focusing on his current role at the city for now.
“I have some other ideas I’d probably be interested in, but right now I really enjoy being mayor,” he explains. “It’s been more fun than I ever thought it would be. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to do it again. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it to me.” He also commends the city council as being “great, hard working folks,” and the city staff as “exceptional…the best it’s ever been.”
“It’s a fun group to work with and around,” Walker says.