Newly elected SSL City Council makes history with its diversity
Jan 21, 2020 11:23AM
● By Bill Hardesty
New South Salt Lake City Council makes history with first person of color and a female super majority. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
The 2020-2021 South Salt Lake City Council is making history. The first person of color is on the council and for the first time the super majority of the council, that is five members, are women.
Natalie Pinkney (Council Member at-large) and LeAnne Huff (District 1) join the council with reelected members Portia Mila (District 4) and Shane Siwik (District 5) along with Ray deWolfe (Council Member at-large), Corey Thomas (District 2), and Sharla Bynum (District 3).
Pinkney, 26, has lived in South Salt Lake City for over a year. She earned a bachelor of psychology from Marquette University and a master of education leadership and policy from the University of Utah. She works as a campus and corporate recruiter.
Pinkney's campaign slogan was to "Move Forward Together." When asked how she was going to fulfill that promise, Pinkney said, "I plan to fulfill this theme by first proposing initiatives, resolutions, and ordinances that increase transparency and collaboration of city residents such as a participatory budget and neighborhood councils. I also plan to keep my engagement with the community by being active in neighborhoods and fulfilling the wants and needs of residents. Moving forward together means listening to residents and doing what they want and need above all else."
Pinkney has three issues she wants to work on during her term: increase budget revenue, so that departments are well staffed and able to accomplish city goals; work with the Promise program on their equity and diversity goals; and create more ways for residents and leaders to get involved in the city.
Since Pinkney is a groundbreaker being the first person of color on the City Council, the City Journals asked her what that means to her.
“I am so grateful and honored to be the first person of color and first Black woman on the council. We have so much diversity in our city and having representation that reflects, that is a huge first step. For me this is about serving my community and making sure we are having important conversations that include everyone and makes everyone feel included in the city," she said.
Huff moved to South Salt Lake City five years ago. She graduated from the University of Utah with a master of education. She is also a licensed mental health counselor. She works as a program administrator for the State of Utah, collaborating with local and state partners to implement best practice in mental health crisis services.
When asked how she was going to fulfill campaign promises, Huff replied, "As a city council member, I made a promise to listen to all sides of an issue and I do my due diligence before I vote."
Huff has been serving on the planning commission and cited it as good preparation for her service on the city council.
"Serving on the planning commission provided me with a foundation of the current and future development in the city. My experience on the planning commission has given me a better understanding of the need to update our city codes to ensure our city gets the quality developments that will benefit our community," Huff said.
Huff's main issue is "to work on resolving the budget concerns facing South Salt Lake.”
She continued, “I attended last year's budget meetings, and I am aware of the current challenges our city faces. I am dedicated to working with city staff and fellow council members to find sustainable solutions to solve our city’s budget issues."
Mila is returning to the council to represent District 4 and has three main areas of concern.
"I have three main areas of focus this year. My No. 1 priority is to make sure we retain and compensate our public safety employees adequately with a sustainable funding source. Second is making sure our Homeless Resource Center (HRC) is successful, providing a pathway to independence and housing without being a drain on our city resources. Finally, I’ll continue to work with staff and Salt Lake County to ensure that our new library is an amenity for all residents," Mila said.
With his reelection, Siwik is marking 15 years of service on the council for District 5. He has five priorities: ensure the HRC works; support Council Member Corey Thomas with her effort for pedestrian safety; communicate with residents; ensure the city spends within its means; and protect property rights.
The fact of having a female super majority of the council is historical, but it is more meaningful that this would occur the year Utah is celebrating 150 years of women’s suffrage in the state. The City Journals asked council members for their thoughts on having a super majority of women members. Their thoughts centered around the power of diversity and the progress of the city.
"I think it speaks volumes to the progress we’ve had as a city. Honestly, I credit the mayor for engaging women in the community and being a role model. I hope other cities are taking note. It makes me proud," deWolfe said.
"It is so great to be on a historical council. When we have more diversity of race and gender, we have more diversity of thought and become better problem-solvers," Pinkney said.
"A more representative and diverse group of leaders can change and improve decision-making and outcomes in a community," Huff said.
"It means representation. When first elected to city council, I was one of only two females. It’s been exciting to watch the makeup of our council shift over the years. But at the end of the day, we all have an important job to do. I’m looking forward to a productive 2020," Bynum said.
"Statewide, women have not typically been in these positions. Though it is an exciting milestone, I prefer to stay focused on the issues and working together," Mila said.