Mayor, public works director quit
in Mt. Pleasant shakeup
Officials allege council members
interference in city management
By James Tilson
MT. PLEASANT—Mt Pleasant has lost its mayor for the second time in two years.
Mayor Sandra Bigler submitted a letter of resignation dated Tuesday Aug. 21. On Tuesday, Aug. 28, the Mt. Pleasant City Council met to accept the resignation and discuss what action to take to fill her remaining term.
Bigler’s announcement came on the heels of the resignation of Public Works Director Sam Draper. Draper submitted his letter dated Sunday, Aug. 19. The city council held a closed, emergency meeting on Monday, Aug. 21 to accept his resignation.
Both officials said they were resigning because of unwarranted city council interference in their managerial functions.
“Due to the council’s continuous involvement with my department, I have not been able to manage or run the department as needed to be able to serve the public in which I feel they deserve,” Draper said.
Over the past year, the council has had several discussions, some in the open, and some behind the scenes, about the need to hire more help in the public works area. The council has also broached the possible need for a paid city manager or city administrator like Manti and Ephraim have.
According to Draper’s letter, the council split the department in two “and then hired an unqualified applicant” for the new position.
“This person was involved in a serious accident due to negligence,” Draper wrote in his letter.
“This same individual came in on Thursday morning (Aug. 16) and created a scene in front of the public works employees,” the letter stated. “He started yelling and cursing with the F-word numerous times claiming I was the reason the mayor was quitting and that all the city problems are because of me.”
The Messenger has attended nearly all open city council meetings since the first of the year. The plan to hire a new department director has not come up. The newspaper learned Tuesday night that the new job title is “Grounds and Building Director.” It has been filled by Lynn Beesley, who has been a farmer and miner.
The day after the council met in closed session to accept Draper’s resignation, the mayor delivered her letter of resignation. At that time, she cited only “personal reasons” for her decision.
But on Friday Aug. 24, Bigler released a more detailed statement. In a letter, she cited her 21 years of service as a councilwoman and mayor. In filling two
appointments and one elected term as mayor, she followed the traditional practice of acting as chief executive of the city, the letter stated. But, after she was appointed to fill a vacancy after the resignation of David Blackham and subsequently elected mayor a second time, she ran afoul of the city council.
“During the eight months since I was most recently elected, I tried to function as the chief executive officer of the city as I had during my previous service as mayor. The city council and I disagree on my role as chief executive, which has made it difficult for me to operate as mayor. Therefore, for the good of the city, I decided to resign.”
At the meeting Tuesday, Councilman Justin Atkinson and Councilwoman Heidi Kelso were both absent because of work conflicts. But Councilman Dan Anderson, Kevin Stallings and Keith Collier were present. That was enough for a quorum.
The council appointed Anderson as mayor pro-tempore until a new mayor can be appointed. The appointed mayor would serve until January 2019. Individuals interested in serving out the rest of Bigler’s term, which runs until 2022, will need to run for the office in the coming November election.
In accepting Bigler’s resignation, Anderson said the council was “grateful for the many hours Sandra has given to the city” and that she has “been very helpful in serving Mt. Pleasant’s citizens.” Anderson also said Bigler wish to continue on as the city’s sexton.
Anderson noted that Draper had worked for the city for many years and said the council “really appreciates the hours he has put in.”
Draper has also been serving as chief of the Mt. Pleasant volunteer fire department, and Anderson said he had asked to stay on as the fire chief.
Coulter Allen, a foreman in the Public Works Department, was appointed as the interim public works director.
Before the council discussed the filling of the mayor’s remaining term, Stallings addressed the audience regarding the resignation. “We as a council are obligated to accept these resignations, even though there have been discussions for them to stay on. We have expressed our friendship, and now we must move forward.”
Stallings added, “I really, truly wish the mayor well. We’ve had numerous talks; there’s just no reason to beat a dead horse. She stated in her letter of resignation that she was resigning for personal reasons. We will respect their privacy.”
Anderson noted Utah statutes mandate that the city must give a two-week notice of the vacancy and accept applications to fill the office. Anderson set the application deadline for Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. Applications should be submitted to the city recorder.
Anderson set the council meeting scheduled for Sept. 25 at 4 p.m. as the time when the council would vote on an interim mayor.
Jeanne Tejada, the city recorder, said if there were more than two applicants, there would have to be a meeting between the Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 to conduct public interviews.
At least 13 people attended the meeting, including four city employees and the former Mayor David Blackham and his wife, Dianne.
No public comment was allowed at the meeting, but Mt. Pleasant resident Sean Wardwell expressed his disappointment with the outcome.
“What happened tonight was an utter disgrace,” he said. “This city has been hemorrhaging talent for a year now. Two mayors, one recorder, and one public works director. We’re losing talent we cannot afford to lose. I think it was incredibly arrogant on the part of the council to not accept public comment.”
The Messenger believes there are many underlying details behind the resignations that have not yet been revealed and is continuing to investigate.