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South Salt Lake Journal

Nick Mitchell becomes first black and LGBTQIA+ elected official in Utah

Feb 09, 2024 03:27PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

For all that Nick Mitchell has accomplished, he stands triumphant as South Salt Lake’s new city councilman. (Photo courtesy of Nick Mitchell)

South Salt Lake leads the charge in progressive change in the state of Utah, as Nicholas Mitchell becomes the first black and openly LGBTQIA+ councilman in the state’s 128-year history. Nick Mitchell was sworn in for District 4 in South Salt Lake on Jan. 2, and the beloved city has now become the most diverse in Utah.

Mitchell was born in Utah and moved to California when he was a child. He eventually returned to his home state and attended the University of Utah where he played football until a work accident forced him to take a pause on his athletic pursuits. Now, as city councilman, Mitchell sets his sights on the community’s future, filled with the best intentions. 

“Making a safer community, more sense of pride in our community, getting out and knowing people. That’s what I really want to push,” Mitchell said. “So we can grow, we can make sure that we’re safe.”

On Jan. 10, Mitchell was part of the first city council meeting of his term at South Salt Lake City Hall, less than two months after his victory over Councilwoman Portia Mila in the municipal election last November.

“It was a little overwhelming,” Mitchell said regarding his initial council meeting. “I just wanted to do the right thing because it was a pretty important city council meeting. There was a lot of people there. The most I’ve ever seen personally, and there were about 60 people online. It was definitely interesting.

“The big thing that happened was the appointment of Lieutenant Danielle Croyle to police chief. There was a lot of excitement around that.” Mitchell chose to abstain from voting. “I felt like I didn’t have enough information. I had questions that needed answers.”

Mitchell has been thinking about and working diligently towards political and community-based aspirations for quite some time now. “I was thinking about running back in 2022. I had a goal to run in 2024. Then in 2021, when Jan. 6 happened, I thought, ‘I have to do something.’ And so I ran,” he said, reflecting on his journey. 

“I initially said I was gonna run for senate, then I met Kael Weston, and I was like, ‘Okay, Kael, you’re way more qualified than I am. I trust you.’ And so I stepped down for mayor and was going to run for senate. And I moved to the second congressional district, because I didn’t believe Chris Stewart was doing that great of a job.”

Mitchell is a registered Democrat, though his disposition has been faced with some opposition by his own party. “I have a little problem with the Democratic Party with what they did to me in this race. They supported my opponent, even though they recruited me to run against her,” he said. “I’m writing an op-ed about it because what they did was outrageous. I ran for second, I did not vice chair the Democratic Party, and I felt like this was a little bit of a retaliatory move.

“If being independent was actually a viable solution, like I could actually win, I would be an independent, but that’s not the case where right now we’re a two-party system, and you have to pick one or the other. Third parties usually don’t win.

“This is a good place to see if I should like it or not, because being a candidate is way different than being a politician, but right now, I’m happy being a city council person. I just really want to help the city right now. I’ll see what comes my way in a couple of years, see what happens and how people view me and go from there.”

It is an exciting time in the state’s history as Mitchell and the rest of the city council make way for new progressive changes. “We have led the way in being the most progressive city in Utah, and other cities are modeling themselves after our city. So I definitely want to keep that going and work with the city council to make sure that we’re always on the cutting edge and so I’m really excited to keep that going,” Mitchell said.

There was a celebration on Jan. 17 at La Puente, a Mexican restaurant, to relish in the positive changes that have been taking place in the city. “It was, from what I understood, a celebration of just kind of having a more diverse city council, because, you know, I’m black, Natalie [Pinkney] is black, Paul [Sanchez] is Latino. So we just want to celebrate the diverse nature of—Clarissa [Williams] is Native American, you know, so we’re a very diverse city council, and we just want to celebrate that,” Mitchell said.

“I want to do the best for the people, and being the first queer black man ever elected in the state means a lot to me. I’ve always kind of been tokenized, because I was in Provo, Utah—there weren’t that many black people back in 2003 or 2004, and so I’ve always been in the spotlight,” he said. 

Being 6’2 and a 250-pound football player, Mitchell has become acquainted with the feeling of “sticking out,” and wants to set an example for others that they too can run for public office. “Anyone can be a politician. Anyone can do it. I would invite people to throw their hat in the ring, give it a go. I know a lot of people like to complain about politics, but very few people want to throw their hat in,” Mitchell said.

“For me, it has softened my views on politicians, because I’m like, ‘Oh, you all really don’t have that much power.’ It was an awakening for me. I think that everyone should be involved in politics, and really learn.” λ