SPRINGDALE – Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Springdale Town Council’s municipal general election in November, including one incumbent, Adrian Player, and two others who haven’t held elected office before, Randy Aton and Rick Praetzel.
Foremost on the candidates’ minds are parking and infrastructure to accommodate the steady growth Springdale experiences both itself and as a function of serving as the gateway community to Zion National Park.
Each candidate was asked two questions, “What specific strengths would you bring to the office, if elected?” and “What are the main issues Springdale is facing and what would you do to address them, if elected?” Below are their responses.
In previous careers, Aton has been an engineer, a mountaineering instructor and a Grand Canyon river guide.
“I bring an engineer’s problem-solving ability to the town’s issues and an outdoor advocate’s sensibility to the town’s and the park’s environments,” Aton said. “I like working with people and ultimately feel like my best ideas come from listening to others and picking and choosing from their ideas.”
One of the strengths Aton listed is that he’s been a Springdale resident since 1979.
“I have seen the town grow from a small town of just over 200 to its present population of around 600,” he said. “I also have seen Zion National Park’s visitation go from about a million to over 4 million a year.”
Aton said the pressures from increased population and visitation have been intense.
“I have always known Springdale was going to grow, but have always tried to ensure that it would grow in a way that still made it livable for its residents,” he said. “I am still committed to that goal.”
Aton’s wife owns a retail store in town, which he said makes him aware of problems business owners face.
He said one of the biggest issues facing Springdale is affordable housing, which he said the town has tried to address in the past, but with little success. He’s open to ideas from town staff and residents on the issue, but is not sure there will be a “magic solution.”
“I think a combination of residential zoning changes and reaching out to the business community for ideas will ultimately lead us to some solutions,” he said.
Parking is another main issue in Aton’s mind, noting that people are parking anywhere they can in town.
“The town is working on this and has started exploring metered parking on the highway and allowing private parking lots in town,” he said. “There are other ideas out there that would move parking out of Springdale and further down canyon. Again, I think it will probably be a combination of actions that solve this problem.”
Player, the incumbent in the Town Council race, counts his previous six years on the Town Council as one of his strengths. He has also served as Springdale’s appointed member on the Rockville/Springdale Fire Protection District Board for the last four years.
Player retired from a top-level management job with the Internal Revenue Service 15 years ago and said that accounting background is a strength in dealing with the budget process for both Springdale and the fire district.
“My extensive management background provides good insight in identifying problems and working effectively with the other three council members and mayor in resolving problems,” he said. “My legal training in tax law enables me to assess litigation issues that come up in town operations and I have participated in one mediation case that was resolved using this method.”
One of Springdale’s current issues is Utah Department of Transportation’s refurbishment of SR-9 beginning in mid-October, with which he has been closely involved as a Town Council member.
Like his counterparts, Player said parking is a key issue for the town because of over 4 million visitors who come through every year.
“The council has sought the advice of a consulting firm, and we are currently in a test period for paid parking to determine whether Springdale should use paid parking as a means of controlling where and how visitors park,” he said.
If re-elected, he said he would apply the parking test results to help alleviate the parking problems in town.
He also talked about replacing the culinary water plant as an issue, saying that the council is seeking financing for construction of a new plant without significantly raising water prices.
“If re-elected, I will continue to work with the town staff, Council and engineers in seeing this key project through to completion,” he said.
Player said he enjoys serving on the council and feels it works effectively with town staff in identifying problems, ordinance revisions and ensuring that they adhere to the town’s general plan.
“I bring the past nearly six years of hands-on experience to this election,” Player said. “Our council has resolved a number of issues during my terms and the town has benefited from careful consideration by the council to keep Springdale the great place it is.”
Praetzel said he is not running for Town Council to stroke his ego.
“At my age, life has taught me humility,” said Praetzel, who has never held an elected office, said.
What’s most important to Praetzel is one’s commitment.
Praetzel said his background is pragmatic. He served as a consultant, observing what companies are doing well and building upon it and seeing how it can be done better and facilitate it.
As a consultant, he said, many companies expected him to come in with all the answers, but he said implementing an open-minded approach will generate answers, even if they come from a 10-year-old child, he said.
“You have to be willing to change,” he said.
He said the best approach to solving problems is to be a team member with an open mind, decide on the best ideas and put them into action, and that’s what he’d do if elected to the Town Council.
He said he sees his candidacy as a chance to give residents another choice. As one of the founders of Zion Adventure Company, he’s been associated with the town for 21 years and been a full-time resident for 12.
If elected, he would see his efforts as being concerned with four major groups in town – homeowners, business owners, Springdale business employees who don’t live in town and, of course, visitors, to make Springdale a place that is comfortable and enjoyable to visit.
Praetzel said he was in on the discussions that led to the implementation of the Zion National Park shuttle system in 2000 and with the increase in visitation, he said it’s obviously time to revisit similar questions asked during that time period.
This election will also pit incumbent Mayor Stan Smith, against a former town councilman, Mark Chambers, in the mayoral race.
The town of Springdale is a vote-by-mail precinct. Ballots will drop in the mail Oct. 17. In order to be counted, ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 6. For more information on Springdale elections, visit the town’s website or contact Town Clerk Darci Carlson at telephone 435-772-3434.
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