(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Newly elected City Council Members Chris Wharton, left, and Amy N. Fowler enjoy a laugh after taking the oath of office in ceremony outside the City-County Building Tuesday Jan. 2.
The Salt Lake City Council that took office Tuesday is not only the youngest ever, according to council office staff.
With its oldest member just 44, it is also the first of the post-Baby Boomer generation.
The “old-timer,” District 6 Councilman Charlie Luke, a Gen-Xer, is also the council’s longest serving member, at six years. Only one other member, District 2’s Andrew Johnston, is over 40.
Also a first: Three of the seven council members are gay, including two new council members who were sworn in to their first terms at Tuesday’s ceremony on the steps of City Hall.
Wharton, in his remarks, referenced that passing of the torch, as well as the contrasts and paradoxes of Salt Lake City and its residents that improbably meld together to move the city forward.
“Frankly, it’s how someone like me, a liberal, gay millennial, sixth-generation Utahn, can represent the district that includes [Mormon] Temple Square, the Utah Capitol, and the two oldest, most established neighborhoods in the state,” he said.
James Rogers, District 1: Starting his second term, Rogers called attention to significant economic projects underway in his district,along with the smaller ones that define and benefit communities and neighborhoods. ”The lifeblood of any community is powered by energy,virtue and intelligence of its citizens,” he said. “With all of the large-scale development occurring it is easy to forget that it is really the small and simple things that create the fabric of the community.”
Erin Mendenhall, District 5: Also starting her second term, Mendenhall, as did Rogers, invoked words from a character in 19thCentury writer George Eliot’s novel “Middlemarch,” who says: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?”“You do this every day,” she said. “This city is strong with community spirit and service of all kinds.”Mendenhall also highlighted the lack of women in elected office – they comprise only 27 percent of Utah’s elected officials – and the need for greater balance to work on gender inequality in areas such as equal pay.Later Tuesday, the council, at its first meeting of the year, voted to make Mendenhall council chair by a vote of 4-3 over current Vice Chair Charlie Luke. Wharton was chosen to serve as vice-chair.
Amy Fowler, District 7:The new council member described her childhood desire to “change the world,” a dream that faltered after two previous unsuccessful runs for office.“I thank you for not giving up on me and for not letting me give up on myself and my vow,”she said. “I can promise that I will work for you and I will work with you and that together, maybe I’ll make good on my vow and we can change the world.”