Longtime West Valley City Council members depart

Russ Brooks and Carolynn Burt worked to create a first-class city.
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West Valley City • When crews started filling in potholes on selected north-south streets one year, 2200 West was not on the list. District 1 Councilwoman Carolynn Burt took City Manager Wayne Pyle for a bumpy ride and made her point. The street was repaired.

District 3 Councilman Russ Brooks also took the direct route when he decided in the late 1990s that the city needed a portable stage for community events.

Then-City Manager John Patterson said there wasn't enough money. Brooks negotiated a reduced price for a "showmobile" portable stage that a vendor was bringing to a convention in Salt Lake City, and West Valley came up with the money. The west-side suburb made its money back a few years later by renting out the portable stage during the 2002 Olympics.

"It actually cost the city zero dollars," Brooks said.

Burt and Brooks attended their final city council meeting as members in December, having opted against running for new terms to give others a chance to serve. They also had personal reasons: Burt, 74, is battling leukemia and is slated to have a bone marrow transplant this month, which would have led to weeks of missed council meetings.

Brooks, 64, has accepted a call from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve as a bishop and will be traveling more for his sales job in the natural-gas industry.

"They both cared passionately about improving our city, and their retirement is really the end of an era," said Mayor Mike Winder.

Burt and Brooks were part of the council that brought the Maverik Center, Family Fitness Center, Hale Centre Theatre and Utah Cultural Celebration Center to the city, he noted.

Kevin Fayles, a longtime resident active in community, said Burt's and Brooks' institutional knowledge will be missed.

"I think they have a track record of making the hard — and correct — decisions rather than thinking of political expediency," he said.

Working for the people • Brooks, who grew up in West Valley City and graduated from Granger High School, worked for Questar Gas for 35 years before retiring. He was selected by the council in May 1995 to replace Gordon Evans, who stepped down to serve an LDS mission, and was elected the next September and three times after that.

Councilman Don Christensen believes Brooks won because he always did what he thought was right. "He worked for the people," said Christensen, who was Brooks' campaign manager for his second run. "It didn't matter whether he made friends."

Brooks said except for getting the showmobile, "everything else I accomplished was with my fellow city council members."

Councilman Corey Rushton said Brooks had a great perspective on how issues affected the average resident. "Russ was also, surprisingly, the most passionate council member despite his mild-mannered demeanor," he said.

At a council meeting in August, state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, head of the Utah Taxpayers Association, criticized an 18 percent property-tax increase and West Valley's ownership of the Maverik Center and a fitness center, which compete against private businesses.

Brooks raised his voice as he defended the city's leaders, noting the increase was only the second since West Valley City was founded in 1980.

"I can't believe that you would come in here and say to the previous councils, the previous mayors, that they have not been doing the right things for the city," he told the senator. "We have grown to a first-class city because of men and women that were elected by these citizens to make choices, to make this a better place to live, to play and to work."

Brooks believes the city will be further boosted by Fairbourne Station, a half-billion-dollar development of residential, retail, hotel, office and green space next to a transportation hub now under construction.

"When they look at what's going on, people are proud to be from West Valley City," Brooks said.

Speaking her mind • Burt, a small-business owner who has lived in the city since 1961, also was initially appointed to the council, filling a seat left vacant in 1998 by the death of Leland DeLange. She was elected to the position a year later and won re-election twice.

From the beginning, Burt was outspoken and fought for the issues she believed benefited her District 1 constituents. "I'm not a wallflower," she said.

What was good for her district wasn't necessarily good for the entire city, Burt said, and she was on the losing end of a lot of 6-1 votes. But there were successes, too.

She lists as accomplishments: getting three parks and the first piece of public art put in West Valley, a statue of hockey players at the Maverik Center. She made the first donation, $6,000, toward the artwork.

When the Family Fitness Center was built in the late 1990s, she insisted that the pools be deep enough for diving and meet specifications for competitions. Once again, she dug into her own pocket, donating $12,000 for starter blocks and $4,000 for a record board. When she learned that only one lane of the lap pool had a timing system, she came up with the money — she doesn't remember how much — for timing systems in the other seven lanes.

Nancy Day, Fitness Center director, said Burt also gave generously of her time, serving as a volunteer official at swim meets.

"The program wouldn't be where it's at by any means without her assistance and aid," Day said.

Burt also bought benches for parks and regularly gave to Hale Centre Theatre and the Community Education Partnership, which provides before- and after-school educational programs for children.

And she's not done. Burt said she'll donate $40,000, the remainder of the money she earned as a council member, for a carillon bell tower at Fairbourne Station.

She and her husband are building a new home in Highland. She'll miss her friends and life in West Valley City, where the couple once owned a car wash and Scott's Drive-In and still have rental properties. She hopes to continue volunteering with community groups.

"If I get well, I wouldn't mind coming back," she said.

pmanson@sltrib.comTwitter: @PamelaMansonSLC —

Members sworn in

West Valley City Council incumbent Corey Rushton and newly elected members Tom Huynh and Karen Lang took the oath of office on Jan. 3.

Rushton • 36, is starting his second term as an at-large member. He is a marketing manager and small-business owner.

Huynh • 44, a Realtor, represents District 1.

Lang • 52, who owns and operates Oakbridge Greenhouse with her husband, represents District 3.