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Stan Penfold, the first openly gay person elected to the Salt Lake City Council, will not seek a third term a decision he's been contemplating since last fall.
"I love serving the residents of District 3," Penfold said in an email Thursday to The Salt Lake Tribune, "but two terms in that role is enough."
Penfold said that he had been contacted in recent weeks by individuals with interest in his seat who inquired about his re-election plans, prompting him to make his decision public so that others could launch their own campaigns.
"All good things must come to an end," Penfold wrote in a letter to supporters that was posted by some on Facebook. "I have reached the bittersweet decision not to run for re-election."
Currently the council chairman, Penfold was first elected in 2009. He represents the area which includes neighborhoods near the state Capitol and the upper avenues.
Penfold said he will serve out his current term and leave public office in January 2018.
The announcement comes a week after Penfold came under public fire for his management of the Utah AIDS Foundation, where he has been the executive director since 1999. The foundation provides free HIV testing and sexual health education to the public, runs a food bank and provides other support services to Utahns living with HIV/AIDS.
Critics say Penfold has been an absentee leader since taking public office and spends more of his UAF work hours on city business than on the agency's programs and needs.
A petition, authored by two former employees and signed by more than 250 people, was submitted to the UAF board on Wednesday, seeking an immediate evaluation of Penfold's performance and "clear rules" separating his city council duties from his agency responsibilities.
In his email, Penfold said the petition and its complaints were not a factor in his decision.
"I can assure you that concerns raised by disgruntled ex-employees have not figured into my thought process," he said.
UAF board chairman Todd Olsen said Penfold told him in January he was tilting away from a third run for office.
"He felt he had done what he could," Olsen said. "I think he was ready to move on."
Olsen said the board had not yet received the petition, but would consider its complaints. He said the board has supported Penfold's service on the council and has had no concerns about the way he had managed the dual responsibilities of councilman and UAF director.
Penfold has denied being an absentee leader.
Ben Holdaway helped draft the petition in early March after he was fired from his job as a programming coordinator at the foundation. He said Thursday he didn't know why Penfold has decided not to run, but hoped that the board would still address the concerns raised by the petition and not "consider the issue closed now that [he] will no longer be with the City Council."
In his letter to supporters, Penfold expressed gratitude for the "confidence and trust" placed in him over eight years and said his journey into public service began with a desire to solve a traffic problem on 2nd Avenue.
"Fast forward more than 30 years and I'm still working with you to improve the neighborhoods and city we all love," Penfold said, adding that he will continue to stay involved in city issues.
"Public service is part of who I am," he wrote. "Whatever the future holds for me, I look forward to working with you to improve our communities and keep building the kind of city we want to live in and are proud to live in."
While Penfold was the first openly gay person elected to office in Salt Lake City Hall, he hasn't been the only one. Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Councilman Derek Kitchen both won election in 2015.