Provo Mayor's column: George Stewart

George Stewart receives a Mayor's Award plaque from Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi at a recent City Council meeting.

During the holiday season, we see more clearly the importance of relationships. Allow me to highlight one special relationship and share what we at Provo City are doing to try to strengthen our relationship with you, our citizens.

By way of background, this Christmas season is a season of transition in Provo City government, with a full majority of the City Council retiring on their own terms and four new members arriving on the scene next month. The relationship I want to highlight is mine with George Stewart, outgoing council member and former mayor of Provo.

At recent events, council member Stewart has remarked that in all his years of service, relations between the city council and mayor have never been this good. With the foundation of those relationships, we’ve been able to tackle big issues, from critical infrastructure needs to public safety. We have worked to ensure that the Provo of today and tomorrow has its needs met, whether it’s an updated waste-water treatment facility or the seven police officers we recently added. And we are doing all this in a fiscally responsible way, cutting costs where we can and stocking away more in our rainy-day fund than has ever been there previously.

Initially, Councilmember Stewart and I would not have been pegged as fast friends; he campaigned for another mayoral candidate. But as he and I have sat side by side in council meetings, a genuine admiration and affection for each other has blossomed. He recently spoke generously of what a great mayor we have, and expressed his appreciation that I have often sought his advice and that of others, sometimes even asking them “what would you do if you were mayor?” I do strongly believe in the value of counselling together and gathering input from everyone at the table.

And here is some of what I said about him, when I recently presented him with a rare “Provo Mayor’s Award.”

It was over 25 years ago, in June of 1993, when George O. Stewart, already a successful businessman and consultant, had the impression there was something else he should be doing.

Later, when an associate called to suggest he run for mayor, he thought: I don’t know anything about politics. But the idea kept percolating, and five minutes before the deadline, he threw his hat in the ring. Now, a quarter of a century later, no modern history of Provo City would be complete without him.

His tenure, first as mayor and then in two separate stints on the city council, has been marked by decisiveness. Whatever the tough issue, and no matter his political opponents, George has been willing to make hard decisions and stand by them. In doing so, he has consulted his principles far more than the winds of politics.

It was Jimmy Stewart who brought ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to the big screen, with its tale of the difference one person can have on a family and a community. It’s our earnest hope that as our own Mr. Stewart hangs his hat on his decades of public service, he feels a measure of the pride and gratitude that this community holds in our hearts for him.

What about Provo’s relationship and connection with you? Do you have access to the information you want and need? Do you feel connected with your city organization? We here at Provo City want to connect with you, our citizens, and are working overtime to enhance the ways we can do that.

In January, Provo residents will receive a special packet in the mail, highlighting ways you can access information about city affairs and connect with your neighbors, city staff, and elected officials. My vision is that Provo residents are the most connected in the nation to their city organization, as well as to each other. I will highlight some components of this effort in my state of the city address, my favorite of which is something we’re calling “Conversations with Kaufusi.”

So, watch your mail, Provo residents, and then come join me at my state of the city address (date and location will be in the packet) and let’s get better connected!

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