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When John Curtis went from working as a regional manager at O.C. Tanner to an executive position with Action Target, it was a jarring culture shock.

Instead of working for a jewelry company that spared no expense to satisfy customers, Curtis found himself at a firing-range manufacturer that prides itself in wearing out the office carpets. Instead of staying in five-star hotels on business trips, employees share rooms in Motel 6.

The contrast, however, taught him important lessons.

"There are times when it is important to be frugal, and there are times when you have to spend money," Curtis said.

The experience, he believes, will serve him well as he becomes the city's new mayor during a down economy.

Curtis is coming in at a time when Provo is staring at a possible $2 million budget deficit. In addition, several incoming businesses have either put their projects on hold or significantly scaled back until the recession ends.

But Curtis doesn't regret taking office amid such uncertainty.

"It's an opportune time," Curtis said. "This is a time to get ready for the economy to turn and to get a jump-start."

Along with assembling a committee to advise him on budget issues, Curtis also has taken steps toward uniting the city after a contentious election.

He has met with neighborhood leaders to ensure them he won't be undoing the city's neighborhood program, as alleged during the election. That meant reaching out to one chairwoman who had been at odds with him in the past.

Judy Kelch, the Dixon Neighborhood chairwoman, had argued Action Target did not belong in the midst of a residential neighborhood. That led to the city entering an agreement to relocate the business to the Ironton Business Park on the southeast side.

"Judy and I met under difficult circumstances," Curtis said. "But she has been gracious in reaching out to me and we're working together for the betterment of the neighborhood."

Kelch said the dispute wasn't a personal one. She is ready to let bygones be bygones.

Curtis also has won over former political rivals, such as state Sen. Curt Bramble, who Curtis ran against as a Democrat in 2000. Bramble later endorsed Curtis in the mayor's race, and Curtis offered his home for a campaign event when Bramble ran for re-election last year.

"The [election] process, done well, bonds you to people," Curtis said. "But if you are not careful, it can create rifts."

Serving the community runs in Curtis' family.

An ancestor was the first woman to serve on a Utah school board, and his wife, Sue, is chairwoman of the Provo School Board. Curtis' brother-in-law is Murray Mayor Dan Snarr, while his sister-in-law is Rep. Trisha Beck, D- Sandy.

"John is a kind, compassionate and caring individual," Beck said. "He has a way of bringing people together."

Beck said Curtis' run for mayor impressed her because such a diverse group came out to celebrate with him on election night.

While Sue Curtis is happy her husband is as passionate about serving the community as she is, she said people don't have to worry about them taking over. She will not seek re-election to the school board.

"I thought it would be great that since I have that passion to give an opportunity for someone else to serve," Sue Curtis said.

Snarr is proud Curtis is joining him in the ranks of Utah mayors.

"I have reservations about me being mayor, but not about John being mayor," Snarr said.

The only advice Snarr said he passed on to Curtis is to be true to himself, and remember he is part of a team.

Curtis doesn't see that as a problem. He said the collective effort he has been part of at Action Target has made the company a leader in its industry.

"One of the great things about Action Target was that we felt like we were all in the hatches," Curtis said. "There was no disparity between ranks when things had to be done."

Curtis replaces Lewis K. Billings, who chose not to run for a fourth term.

Billings said from what he could see, the city will be in good hands.

"I have talked to him, and he seems excited," Billings said of Curtis. "He has spent a lot of time preparing himself for the role."

As for his own future, Billings said he is going to return to managing businesses.

About John Curtis

Age » 49

Employment » executive vice president, Action Target.

Family » He and his wife, Sue, are the parents of six children and grandparents of one.

Education » bachelor of science degree in business management from Brigham Young University.

Fun facts » Curtis served as vice chairman and chairman of the Utah County Democratic Party. At age 24, he was named Citizen Watch's Salesman of the Year .