I sent a few questions to American Fork City Council members Kevin Barnes, Carlton Bowen, Brad Frost, Rob Shelton, and Jeff Shorter. Four of the five replied; Councilman Bowen did not. Here are their responses, with minimal edits for format and readability, not substance. I did not suggest a specific length for their responses; both short and long responses were welcome.
Answers are presented in alphabetical order, by the officials’ last names.
Q. What qualifications should voters look for in city council candidates?
Kevin Barnes: The most important qualification is a desire to serve the community and people of American Fork. Along with this is a commitment of the time and energy needed to do the job. The position requires good communication skills and the ability to work with a variety of people and situations. The most successful people are not in it for personal glory but the good of our entire community.
Brad Frost: Good listener, humble, open minded to a wide range of personal beliefs. The ability to discern from one individual or a small group and make a decision for the best interest of the city as a whole. This takes initiative and time to solicit a wide range of opinions. It is very important that an elected official is prepared to do his or her due diligence to make an informed decision.
Ability to work well with others. This would absolutely include city staff. Elected officials come and go, but staff are the constant factor in carrying out good policy. It is important to always keep in mind that our employees carry out the day to day operation of the city. They need to feel supported and valued. In most cases, they are the first individuals I turn to for advice.
It is important to recognize that you represent the city as a whole, not just those who share your ideology. It is also important to have a genuine and sincere desires to serve, and to love the city. I might add, we do not live in Washington, DC. That does not mean the city is perfect or that your desire to make a specific change is not a good reason to run for office, but consider, what will you do next, after you’ve made the change you wanted?
A good work ethic is required. Like everything in life, you can get by, or you can jump in head first. I think the residents expect a full commitment, so be prepared to jump in.
Approachability and accessibility. One must be responsive to emails, meetings big or small, and supportive to a wide variety of organization and activities that make this city great.
In summary, you do not need to be an expert in all things, but you must be willing to learn and have fun along the way. It will be a very long tenure, if you don’t have fun learning new things and making friends.
I wouldn’t let fear stand in the way of public service. At the end of this service, you will be the one that has grown the most.
Rob SheIton: I would list them as the as the 6 C’s:
- Character – What is their say/do ratio of the past? What specific examples of follow through can they provide in their leadership past that would show the character worthy of such office?
- Consultative – Since no one elected official can ever change anything on their own, what specific examples do they have of working in a consultative and collaborative environment to resolve an issue? What plans to they have to establish a consultative/collaborative environment?
- Competence – How well versed are they in the issues that face the city? What have they done to become competent on the issues that are at hand?
- Caring – Do they exhibit a true compassion for the city? Do they sincerely care about it, or just running for office for some other reason (like furthering their political ambition). Is it selfless serving or self-serving?
- Chemistry – How would they fit in with the other leaders in the city? What is their chemistry with the residents of the community. How about the chemistry of other political leaders? Do they show the ability to disagree on issues, but still maintain the chemistry to have influence with others on different issues?
- Commitment – Do they have the time allotted to be fully committed to the office? How much time do they plan on giving to the office? Do they have a history of giving time and volunteering in the community on a consistent basis for an extended period of time?
Jeff Shorter: Willingness to look at others opinions and change as the facts dictate. Willing to serve others without recognition.
Q. How many hours do you spend in an average week, in your city council activities?
Kevin Barnes: The time spent is up to the individual, committee assignments from the mayor, and the personal interests of the council member. We don’t keep any kind of time sheet or turn in any kind of a report. It also depends on the week. I think it requires at least five hours per week on average. On Tuesday of this week I spent about four hours; then on Wednesday I spent another seven hours involved with a golf tournament sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in a fund raising role. (I wasn’t golfing.). This came about because of my assignment to work with the Chamber of Commerce.
Brad Frost: Depending on assignments, I would estimate about 10 to 12 hours per week. A few of those hours will often need to be during during the business day. Additional assignments and activities can add several more hours per week, if the time is available. I personally chose to invest a considerable amount of extra time to protect American Fork Canyon and our watershed. Things like the cemetery expansion and Memorial Garden and the Cory Wride Memorial added some hours for a while but weren’t typical.
Rob Shelton: It depends on the week. For me it averages between 15 and 20 hours a week, but there really is no set time. It’s whatever time one wants to put in to make a difference.
Jeff Shorter: 4 to 6 hours each week.
Q. Looking ahead, what major issues do you see that should concern voters and candidates now?
Kevin Barnes: The City is in good shape financially and has some good plans in place for the future. That said, we need to continue to pay attention to the roads, water, police, fire, and all other city services. The City is on a good path to reducing its debt. Managing the coming growth on the south and east sides of the city will be important.
Brad Frost: Roads, roads, and roads! The concern here is making everything fit within the budget.
Aging infrastructure is also continually on my mind. It has taught me a great deal of patience. We have a solid plan to face these challenges, but it will take time, prudent planning, and fiscal responsibility.
Understanding that the budget sets priorities. City residents have shown that quality of life issues are of great importance, we need to honor this direction.
Proper planning for future growth is also very important.
Rob Shelton: I will leave this to those running for office. There are many issues and they vary in importance depending on the person. I think the most pressing issue for voters is finding good, qualified people they can trust to make many decisions for them.
Jeff Shorter: Funding is always an issue. There are always more good projects that need to be done, but cannot be, because of limited resources. Improving the infrastructure roads, sewers, water lines, etc. Keeping payroll reasonable without losing good employees.
Thanks to all members of the American Fork City Council for their service, and doubly to those who responded to these questions.
If you want to contact any or all of them directly, e-mail addresses and their committee assignments are listed at the City’s website on the City Council page.
You may wish to see Mayor Hadfield’s responses to similar questions.