The Salt Lake City Council broke with tradition Tuesday afternoon and elected its chairman for 2013 with signed ballots, rather than secret ones.
First-term Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, who took office one year ago, emerged the victor on the first ballot by a 5-2 margin. Charlie Luke, who also joined the council last year, got two votes.
LaMalfa, who makes his living as a statistician and consultant, also is known for his passion for community building.
The 38-year-old Poplar Grove resident, who also represents the west side's Glendale area, will take the reins from outgoing Chairman Soren Simonsen, who represents the Sugar House area.
According to the City Council's self-imposed guidelines, chairmen cannot serve more than one year consecutively.
Another east side council member, Jill Remington Love, was elected vice chairwoman.
For the past year, LaMalfa has served as chairman of the Redevelopment Agency (RDA). As such, he was among the prime movers in solidifying planning and financing for the megatheater to be built on Main Street near 100 South. He said he will now step down as RDA chairman.
Before his election to the council, LaMalfa was a community activist. In 2004, he created a west-side community farmers market that evolved into the People's Market, a weekly summer event at Jordan Park.
Most recently, LaMalfa championed an "incubator kitchen" at The Leonardo museum that would aid immigrants and others in learning the restaurant and commercial food trade.
The council chairman is a pivotal position in Salt Lake City government. The chairman sets the council's agenda and as such can prioritize newly proposed regulations, laws and budgetary items, including capital improvements.
As a legislative leader, however, the chairman is limited by fellow council members. At least four votes are necessary to move any initiative forward.
In the upcoming year, LaMalfa said he wants the council to coordinate the RDA more effectively with the city's Planning Department in an effort to more quickly move projects forward.
"The idea is to create legislative packages that are neighborhood-focused," he said. "Planning packages, design packages, funding packages ... assemble pieces in a group to give the [Becker] administration enough flexibility so they don't have to come back to us for every detail. It will move changes faster."
LaMalfa is a graduate of East High School. He earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and economics at the University of Utah. He later received a master's degree from the U. in statistics.
Cash set aside for Leonardo kitchen
The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday voted to fund a commercial kitchen in the basement of The Leonardo museum. But that does not include money for a so-called community "incubator kitchen" that would aide immigrants and others who seek to go into the commercial food business.
In its amendment to the fiscal year 2012-13 budget, the council funded $250,000 for a Leonardo kitchen.
The council also set aside $100,000 as a grant for a community incubator kitchen. That money could be used for a incubator kitchen in conjunction with the commercial kitchen at The Leonardo, or it could fund an incubator facility at another location to be determined by the Salt Lake City Food Policy Task Force.
Community groups can apply for funding through the mayor's office.