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2023 American Fork City Council Candidate Interviews with John Mulholland

There are nine candidates for American Fork City Council in September’s primary election. The top six will advance to the general election in November, to compete for three available seats. Terms are four years. Here are notes on interviews with the candidates.

Updated August 24, 2023 (one candidate added)

Ernie John

Ernie is a long time resident of 20 years and was recently responsible for flood control between Tibble Fork and Utah Lake. By starting early and working with many other agencies we were able to avoid major issues.

Ernie chose the management track in his career and has worked with other cities in other states and has seen how they are run. He thinks we are doing well but can do better. The city engineers and public works do a lot of hard work but we need to improve both communication and stabilization.

Ernie said the city really should have done a better job putting in higher quality roads near the train station. We could have done a lot better with a 5 year road instead of worrying about a 50 year one right away. The developers should be paying for the infrastructure. Ernie also mentioned that some commercial is required with the high density residential. This helps eliminate traffic as people can walk to local stores and restaurants.

Water is a huge concern for Ernie, as he has worked on many water projects. He mentioned that well water levelss are dropping.

Previously, Ernie’s busy schedule was a large concern but he has divested himself in order to make time to be on the city council.

Regarding GRAMA requests, Ernie said that state law prevents the city from charging more than it costs to do the work. Small requests shouldn’t charge though.

Ernie would also like to see more transparency regarding the PARC tax, including up to date minutes and applications being easily accessible online.

Tim Holley

You may remember Tim from his run for mayor two years ago. Tim Holley works in IT sales, is in the Marine Reserves, and runs a karaoke spot in Provo. He has involved himself by attending city council meetings, work sessions, and other community events.

He would like to see the city do a better job at reaching out to residents with volunteer opportunities. The city can’t force inclusion but can set a good example.

Tim is happy to see the mixed use developed in several areas in American Fork. This creates less need for driving as things are much closer. He would like to look into some more roundabouts in busy areas, like 300 N.

Tim said he was surprised to see that the adopted budget (expenditures) went from $103M in FY 2022 to $154M in FY 2024. He believes that the city should remove friction from people getting access to public records.

Elizabeth Gray

Beth has many initials behind her name, MS NCC CMHC, from her various certifications as a mental health counselor. She specializes in LGBTQ treatment. She is very happy that 988 service is now available as a 911 equivalent for mental health services. Beth believes that you can affect the people you see.

Beth keeps coming back to American Fork and finally lives here. Years ago she managed the American Fork Gamestop and took it from a low performing store to #5 in the company. She helped run multiple events through this for the community.

Beth wants to help the city keep the small town feel while still being progressive and growing. She thinks Art Dye is a great park and wants to see more done with smaller parks, including having improved and better maintained trails. She would also like to see an accessibility park in American Fork and thinks she could help secure private funding through her experience working with 501(c)(3)s. 

Her area, by the harbor, has seen such tremendous growth that they are already splitting Greenwood Elementary School. She said that they have been experiencing low water pressure, probably from the fast growth.

She would like to see the newsletter made more accessible, such as having PDFs in different languages. She hopes to have organizations that receive PARC tax money be more transparent, similar to how her friend runs a church.

Beth said that safety is one of her highest priorities and wants to work with civil engineers to find cost effective solutions for 300 N and 100 E. She believes 100 E needs sidewalks and a bike lane. 300 N is more complex and needs to be handled with care.

Christina Ballard

Christina has lived in American Fork off and on but has been here for the last three years. Her husband grew up here. They have moved around with her husband’s work as a pilot, but he is now based out of Salt Lake City.

Christina said that she doesn’t want to just be a consumer of politics but wants to learn more and participate. She wants American Fork to be a safe haven for freedom, which she sees as being able to pursue happiness.

Christina believes that we need good information to make good decisions and has committed to only serving one term.

Clark Taylor

Clark is just finishing his second full term on the city council and is running for reelection. He also served a two year term when he was appointed to replace Brad Frost, when he became mayor.

Clark is proudest of the improvements made to Art Dye through the PARC Tax . He is also very proud of how much money they were able to add to the road fund and also improving public safety. Clark noted that our great ratings in public safety lower our insurance rates.

He said that a lot of resources are going into the TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) area near the train station. Items include improving 200 South, land for a city park, and also land to build a new fire station over there. They also redid zoning laws to require mixed use development to create a more walkable space and less traffic.

Clark insisted that the City is very inclusive and they have eliminated fees to participate in various steel day events which cover a variety of interests. He also said that the city’s outbound communication is much improved. He did admit that it might be difficult for people to know how to volunteer and is considering a suggestion to add something to the city website to make that easier.

When talking about the tax increase, Clark admitted it is a 38% increase, but that is only $10-12 a month, or about $120 a year for the average house. He said that the city has not raised property taxes for a while and that inflation has increased the costs of things.

The city also spent $9 million to start the fiber plan. This is for an initial system design and engineering along with items that have a long lead time to manufacture.

He said that people who oppose the tax increase should have attended more meetings. When asked about the new bond, Clark said that the new $30 million bond will be paid for by the CRA (Community Reinvestment Area).

Clark reiterated how great a place American Fork is to live in and raise a family and that citizens should get involved.

Ken Sumsion

Ken is a certified public accountant and works for BYU. He also previously served as the state representative for what was then the largest house district in Utah. 

Ken has some major concerns about the finances in American Fork. He is very concerned about the 37.8% tax increase on the city portion of our property taxes, which equates to about $120 a year. This is about a 4% increase on our whole property tax bill. He is also concerned about the $30 million bond to improve the south side of I-15 that the city took out without the knowledge of many of the residents.

He said that while in the legislature there was a lot of back and forth between the house, the senate, and even the governor, to get a bill through. This gave plenty of time for input from residents and special interest groups. The city doesn’t have this kind of process and a simple majority of the city council can put the city in a lot of debt. He would like to see more transparency and opportunity for input with these major expenses. Very big ones should be on the ballot.

Ken is quite concerned with the city getting into the fiber business. He mentioned that Utopia doesn’t make money and actually split their business into two separate entities, with one side holding the debt so the other could like it was making money. While at a city council meeting Rob Shelton asked what happens if the fiber plan doesn’t make money. Ken said that Rob’s questions were somewhat ignored.

While attending several city council meetings and in other discussions, Ken has insisted that the $40 million bond for fiber needs to be on the ballot and thinks it was a political maneuver to spend $9 million already on a fiber plan and some materials to ensure that the bond passes. That is about $4,000 per household. Ken is unsure how it will make enough money to pay down this debt just based on the revenue after paying for operating costs and doesn’t think the taxpayer should be on the hook for the money.

Austin Duke - American Fork City Council candidate

Austin Duke

Austin Duke is a financial planner who teaches people how to distinguish between needs and wants and save for a rainy day. Austin said that being on the city council is very similar to running a business. The citizens are your clients. Tax dollars need to be invested wisely in areas that will multiply. He gave the example of having the city be more walkable. That creates less wear and tear on the roads, and saves us money. He noted that he doesn’t let his kids walk to school because there aren’t sidewalks the whole way and there is too much traffic.

Austin realizes that growth is inevitable but we need a master plan if we don’t already have one. He said that Orem and Provo are a mess to drive in and he wants to avoid that.

He said that a city budget is very different from a family budget. Tax increases should be done in smaller increments.He believes that the art programs that are taking PARC money should show what benefit they are providing. Regarding GRAMA, he doesn’t like to nickel and dime customers and would like to eliminate these fees.

With Rob Shelton and Kevin Barnes leaving the city council, Austin feels that the city council needs somebody with a financial background. He admits that there is a lot that he doesn’t know but is excited to learn and serve.

James Boden

James didn’t show up to his interview and stopped responding to attempts to reschedule.

Jeff Shorter

Jeff did not respond to a request to interview him.

John Mulholland lives in American Fork, Utah. His reports on candidate interviews have appeared at AFelection.info since 2017. His writing on Utah politics has appeared at Utah Politico Hub.

Photo credit: Jonathan Simcoe at Unsplash.com


  1. Kevin Barnes

    John thanks for doing this. Although I know and or have met with most of the candidates it is always great to have a different person’s perspective.

  2. Winnie Liu-Behunin

    I am really confused. The federal government, through the Infrastructure Act, was suppose to give each state the money to pay for the internet service. Why are we debating on this issue? Thank you for your answer in advance.

    • David Rodeback

      I’ve heard some discussion that part of the funding for the project might come from federal grants under the IRA, but it seems unlikely that all or nearly all of it would. I’ve made some inquiries at the City on this question, and I’m waiting for a reply.

  3. Winnie Liu-Behunin

    Thank you, David, for looking into this and for responding to my question.