Managing growth dominates council’s focus and mayor continues “forward”
As of January eighth, the city council has two new faces with a familiar face returning to the mayor’s office. Three of the five council seats are held by women for the first time in the city’s history.
Alan Summerhays is the most tenured of the council with nine years of service and he’s lived in Draper the longest of them all. He was raised here, back when Draper’s population was about 500. He recalled from his boyhood that before Draper was a city, the county required a minimum of five acres on which build to build a home in what is now Draper. He takes pride in having helped grow Draper’s recreation program and he said he was first prompted to run for city council for Draper’s youth. “The city’s recreation manager currently has about 7,000 kids and adults that he has programs for through the year. It’s been very successful and it’s grown exponentially through the years,” Summerhays said.
Summerhays owns several local businesses including Guadalahonky’s restaurant and Donkey Tails cantina. He also raises bulls and calves on more than 100 acres in Mount Pleasant. Guadalahonky’s recently celebrated 29 years in business. Summerhays estimates Draper’s population was about 3,000 people when the restaurant first opened.
In the coming year, Summerhays plans to focus on helping the city finish baseball fields so Draper doesn’t have to rent them from nearby cities. He also hopes the new county recreation center that will be built in Draper will have more basketball courts for Jr. Jazz participants to use, again so the city doesn’t have to rent from others. “I think you have a better society if you keep kids busy,” Summerhays said.
He’d also like to explore solar and wind possibilities for power for the city and he’s a proponent of recycling. “I’d like to be number one in the state on being green,” he said. “Simple things that make things better for our kids and grandkids, that’s what we have to look out for in my opinion,” he added.
Marsha Vawdrey has completed four years on the council with two more left in her term. She was appointed to her first two-year term, rather than running an election campaign, when Troy Walker was elected mayor in 2014. Walker had two more years on his council term at the time, resulting in a vacancy that needed to be filled.
Vawdrey had served on various city committees prior to her city council appointment, including eight years on the planning commission and years spent organizing the Draper Days rodeo along with her husband. She also served on the Salt Lake County Fair board.
Vawdrey is a third generation Draper resident who moved here when she was 12. “I thought I was moving to the sticks,” she said with a laugh. “We have certainly grown. I have a perspective of what the past was like. Every hard part about a change brings a good part. I remember when we only had one grocery store. All the conveniences we have are a benefit, but growth and change are also hard. I try to help shape change, try to embrace it where I can,” Vawdrey said.
She explained that her proudest accomplishments on the council in the past four years have been a team effort. They include a splash pad, a community garden, and improved rodeo grounds as well as the conservation easement in Suncrest. She also noted the successful businesses that have come to Draper. She hopes for more trails to be established and for improvement of streets and connectivity.
“You think about yourself, who you are, how you represent the council. I’m quiet but I’m still a strong voice. I’m deliberate. I study and measure my decisions and I show up prepared,” Vawdrey said.
Michele Weeks started on the council at the beginning of 2016. Weeks grew up in a small dairy town in Maryland and graduated from Towson University in Baltimore with a degree in public relations and communications. She moved from New York City to Draper in 1999 because her husband, who grew up in Utah, had children living here.
Weeks’ areas of focus in the past two years have been controlling growth through zoning and improving council communications. “I’ve worked hard to open up a two-way conversation between the council and residents through my Facebook page ‘What’s Draper Up To?’ I love problem solving and working as a liaison between the citizens and the city in helping get problems solved,” she said.
She’s most proud of her idea for a right-hand turn lane at 1300 East and Highland Drive that has eased traffic as well as council accomplishments including more walking trails in the mountains and the conservation easement in Suncrest.
Separate from the council, Weeks has organized an annual celebration of teachers who were nominated for Teacher of the Year from their schools. The teachers and their families spend an evening at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium that includes dinner and door prizes. Weeks has raised funds to put on the event, working with local businesses for donations.
Going forward, Weeks wants to focus on the city’s master plan. “ One of my big things I want to work on is tweaking the proposed master plan to reflect what I’ve heard from Draper residents. As we grow, we need to be sure we don’t sacrifice our quality of life. I don’t want to outgrow the sense of community, warmth and charm that we all live in Draper for,” she said.
Tasha Lowery moved to Draper 10 years ago and made a successful first run for city council in 2017. “I love Draper, I have three young children and I’m invested in Draper’s future. I want to make sure we continue to move in the right direction,” she said.
Lowery was raised in California’s Silicon Valley, in Los Gatos. She holds degrees in Spanish and education from Colgate University in New York as well as two master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, one in language and literacy and the other in school administration. She and her husband moved from Montana to Utah for his job at Adobe. She taught in a dual immersion Spanish/English charter school in California and then worked as a director of Title 1 programming and intervention services in Bozeman, Montana. In recent years, she’s primarily been parenting her three children.
“The traffic infrastructure, open space and parks and trails are things that really matter to me and impact my daily life and my children’s daily lives. I believe in our town. I think I bring a new perspective to the council,” Lowery said.
She recognizes that each council position has limits. “One thing I’d like to clarify to residents is that sometimes there’s not as much leeway as people believe there is with decision making on the council. At times our choices are determined by city codes, zoning ordinances, state law and the town master plan,” Lowery said.
Lowery is optimistic for Draper’s future. “We are so fortunate to live here. Our potential for the future is extremely exciting. We always want to focus on protecting and preserving our quality of life while simultaneously developing our economic opportunities,” she said. She hopes for a spirit of collegiality for the council. “I’m excited for us all to work together. If we can all listen to each other, I think it will be very reasonable and we will continue to see amazing things happen in our town,” she said.
Mike Green also ran his first council campaign and it also resulted in a win. He grew up in West Jordan with an Argentinian mother and a career military officer father whose roots go back to the founding of the country, according to Green. “On one side, I’m a son of Utah pioneers and on the other side I’m a first generation American. It’s really interesting how I can see the American Dream from multiple perspectives,” he said. Green moved to Draper five years ago for the view from the lot his home is built on.
After graduating from high school, Green joined the Army National Guard just prior to September 11, 2001. He served in Afghanistan from 2003-2004. “I joined to serve my country,” he said. Upon returning home, Green enrolled at the University of Utah and earned a degree in political science along with a Hinckley Institute internship with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He holds a master’s degree in political science and he did his thesis on data supporting policy decisions. “I’ll probably be a numbers guy on the council moving forward. I like to make sure decisions are supported by strong justification data and facts and that the outcome is positive and falls in line with the values of our community,” he said.
Green went to law school at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. While there, he did a study abroad in China to learn about the legal aspects of doing business with China. Green is employed as a Utah Assistant Attorney General.
He was prompted to run for the council because he thought his skills were needed. He anticipates having children and he wants to make sure they have the same opportunity to live the American dream that he has had. Green grew up in West Jordan before it became the third largest city in Utah and he fondly remembers playing on open space in his youth. “Two things I care about are quality of life, number one, and number two our pocket books,” he said.
Lowery and Green met while both were campaigning and attending city council meetings. “Mike and I are a good balance. We come from slightly different angles but we compliment each other,” Lowery said.
‘Forward’ was Troy Walker’s first mayoral campaign slogan and it became the city’s slogan when he took office. “If you’re not moving forward, you’re going to get run over,” said the recently re-elected mayor. Walker has been a practicing attorney since 1996. He opened an office in Draper several years ago. Walker spent six years on the city council prior to being elected mayor for the first time in 2014.
Walker is married to Stefani and they have four children. He has a pilot’s license and used to own an airplane for leisure use, but not presently. “I haven’t flown for a couple years with kids in college. I’m paying to educate my children, but I hope in the coming year I’ll get a chance to get back into it,” he said. Meanwhile, Walker can often be found on his mountain bike enjoying Corner Canyon’s many trails.
Walker considers Draper City leaving the Unified Fire Authority and establishing its own fire department his biggest accomplishment from his first term as mayor. “I led the charge on it, I did the research and analysis and convinced fellow council members it was the right thing at the right time. I’m in the unique position that I don’t have a vote, but I have the opportunity to persuade. I’m grateful the council listened,” he said. (With five council members, the mayor only votes in instances where there’s a tie and the mayor chooses to vote, so everything that occurs in Draper is a result of the majority or a minimum of three council members.)
Walker’s offer for Draper to house a homeless shelter, made during his first term as mayor, drew a lot of controversy. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams had a short timetable to locate and name new homeless shelter sites to alleviate the problems surrounding Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande area, and Walker offered to help. He said his rationale for that offer was not a political stunt. “I was honestly trying to see the conversation change from the negative. We have so many resources and a lot of people who serve in churches and volunteer organizations. I was trying to look at a small way we could help, be part of the solution,” he said. Walker had envisioned a shelter for women and children, and he knew the county mayor had authority to name the sites, even without permission from the cities. After a long town hall meeting that he described as unpleasant, he said it was clear that a homeless shelter wasn’t something the people of Draper wanted.
Walker projects the city’s population will increase by a couple thousand at most in the coming two to four years. “We’re pretty built out, we don’t have a lot of land left. The prison site will be the biggest growth but that’s still years out,” he said, adding that they’ve tried to put high-density housing next to Frontrunner in the transit-oriented development site by E-Bay. The mayor has an appointed position on the Point of the Mountain Commission but the project is directed by the state. “If cities want to stop growth, we’re political subdivisions of the state. The state has a responsibility to govern, so we wouldn’t want to obstruct growth or the state could take away our land use authority,” he said.
Looking forward, Walker plans to focus on the prison site for future economic development. “We have to make sure we get the most out of it and still have the quality of life we have,” he said. He’s also interested in developing more transportation options including active transportation trails that allow for battery assisted bicycles people can ride, even in winter, resulting in trails that are corridors for commuters. He said the city plans to connect the E-Bay area to the Jordan River Parkway so that a person could ride all the way from Thanksgiving Point to E-Bay, charge their bike while there, and then ride back. “Whenever we widen a road in the city, we put a bike lane on it,” Walker said.
The council and the mayor have several big items of business beginning in 2018 including developing a General Plan for the city. Once adopted, it will be the plan for the city’s development and physical form for city leaders to follow for the next decade. “I’d expect that to get approved sometime mid to late 2018,” Walker said.