The Hildale City Government will be seeing a big change based on the preliminary results of the election on November 7, 2017. The results bring historical landmarks, highly anticipated change, and perhaps a touch of controversy. Of the five city council seats, three were up for election. The Mayor’s office was also up for re-election. The challengers swept to victory winning all four positions.
The historical implications of this election are far-reaching. This is the first time in the city’s history that non-Mormon Fundamentalists have been elected to serve on the city council. The city was founded by members of the Fundamentalist Mormon tradition, and for the past few decades, the majority (if not the entirety) of the government have been members of the FLDS church. Over the past few decades, the demographics of the community began to change, ultimately leading to a majority of non-FLDS citizens. As the demographics changed, people began to realize that the city government was out of step with the needs of most citizens. The city government has been made up exclusively of male members of the FLDS church since the late 1980’s.
This leads to the next historical landmark. For the first time in history, women will serve on the Hildale City council. Donia Jessop will serve as Mayor of Hildale if the preliminary results hold, beating incumbent Philip C. Barlow 96 to 71 votes. Maha Layton has been elected to serve on the city council, beating incumbent Carlos S. Jessop by 106 to 61 votes. Both Donia Jessop and Maha Layton were born and grew up in the community, each leaving the community for a period of time and returning to the place they love and call home.
Another first in this election is the election of a newcomer, with no historical ties to the FLDS religion or culture. Jared Nicol moved to the community after falling in love with the people and the area. He moved his family to Hildale from Salt Lake City and has been an active participant in the community, in a variety of capacities, since his arrival. He was elected to a position on the city council beating incumbent Edwin Barlow by 109 to 56 votes.
Jvar Dutson is the final challenger to win a special election seat which was previously held by Carvel Nielsen. He beat another candidate for that seat, Elmer L. Johnson by 111 to 57 votes. He has been a member of the community his whole life.
Some in the community have expressed resentment for the way the previous city council has handled their concerns, finding them opaque and lacking genuine concern. Accusations of hegemony and corruption are frequently leveled at the prior city council. Many have questions regarding high impact fees and a lack of transparency in budget and city government positions. Most if not all positions in city government are filled by FLDS members. The prior government has even been the subject of a federal court case which led to a finding of unconstitutional discrimination and other violations of federal law. This led to a list of court-ordered actions that the city must follow to demonstrate that they are no longer engaged in discriminatory behavior. While they have generally maintained compliance with the order, their motives are still suspect in the eyes of many.
The implications of this election are profound. This is a clear mandate from the people for transparency in their city government. With these new members, there are sure to be changes in the way the city office conducts business and interacts with the community and others. There will likely be more opportunities for participation and employment by the city. They have promised a better working relationship with the county, state, and the federal government, as well as the UEP Trust; which still owns much of the land. The new council members and mayor also have a much different view of the cities role in economic development.
Two city council positions are still held by incumbents and won’t come up for reelection until 2019.