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Ogden • About 80 residents showed up Thursday evening to find out what the city's roster of eight mayoral candidates have to offer.
"We're not sure which way we're leaning yet," said Millie Albertson, who attended with her husband Jim Albertson in hopes of finding a leader who shares their belief that attracting good-paying jobs to Ogden should be a top priority.
"I didn't hear enough about real jobs," Jim Albertson said after the candidates gave their three-minute speeches. "If you live in Ogden and you can't buy clothes for your kids, can't give them medical care and can't give them an education ... the rest of this doesn't matter."
Held in the grand ballroom of the Ben Lomond Hotel, the event was organized by one of the eight contenders Historic 25th Street Association President Steven Van Wagoner. However, the space was donated and the forum did not promote any particular candidate.
Contenders who joined Van Wagoner were Jason Goddard, John Thompson, Weber County Public Information Officer Mike Caldwell, former state Rep. Neil Hansen, two-term City Councilman Brandon Stephenson from municipal ward 2 and Susie Van Hooser, an at-large Council member who has served for four years. Candidate Jonny Ballard Ogden's community development manager was unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.
For Caldwell, Van Wagoner and Goddard, this is their maiden run for elected office. Caldwell touted his team-building capabilities as the tool that could move Ogden forward, while Van Wagoner pledged to launch a "made in Ogden" product development program.
"I'm hearing that Ogden is not a friendly place to do business," said Goddard, who owns the small Ogden-based Access Communications. Citing enforcement of the city's weed ordinance as one source of irritation to area businesses, Goddard said he would work to change that dynamic.
Hansen, who served 12 years in the Utah House, said he would focus on "getting back to basics" if elected, including upgrading the city's ailing infrastructure.
Thompson, who has previously run for mayor and Weber County commissioner, said he would bring a different approach as mayor, deferring to the Council as the city's legislative body and working to carry out its will.
Ogden resident James Humphreys, vice president of Utah's chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, zeroed in on Van Hooser as his pick for Ogden's next mayor.
"Susie Van Hooser is the natural frontrunner" due to her name recognition from previous citywide races, Humphreys said.
Van Hooser, a retired school teacher, narrowly lost her mayoral bid to then two-term incumbent Matthew Godfrey in 2007. Godfrey announced this spring that he would not seek a fourth term.
Wayne and Sheila Crosby, who live on Ogden's central east bench, said they are tired of the city's high taxes and hoped to continue Godfrey's focus on economic revitalization.
For that reason, the couple said the two Council members rose to the top but Stephenson was their favorite because of his business background.
Van Wagoner pledged to hold a second candidate forum on Aug. 11. Time and place have yet to be determined.