The American Fork City Council voted on Thursday to appoint Ryan Hunter to a vacancy on the city governing body.
Hunter, a member of the American Fork Planning Commission who worked for more than a decade with the American Fork Chamber of Commerce, replaces Barbara Christiansen, who passed away on April 2 at the age of 74 due to ongoing health conditions.
During a special session on Thursday in the city council chambers, Mayor Brad Frost said Christiansen would be “deeply missed” and reflected on “how blessed we were as a council and how blessed we were as a community to have somebody such as the caliber of Barbara Christiansen.”
“In Zoom you’re just a box and a face. But as we come in here today, we see an empty chair,” the mayor said.
The city council heard from 11 candidates vying to fill the vacancy. Each had three minutes to tell the council about themselves and their vision for the north Utah County city.
The four council members voted for their top two candidate picks. Hunter and Heidi Rodeback, chairperson of the American Fork Library Board Committee and a former two-term council member, received the most votes and were the two finalists.
Hunter told the council that one of the “challenges” he sees facing American Fork is “trying to hold on to the heritage that (got) us to where we are” while also “responsibly seeing it (the city) grow the way it will inevitably happen.”
Hunter said his experience on the planning commission and with the chamber of commerce would allow him to navigate this challenge.
Rodeback made a similar assessment of the city, which she said has experienced a “juggernaut of traffic and economic development” and is home to a “monolithic, high-speed traffic corridor that divides our city like a Chinese wall.”
“And yet, despite our many very modern challenges, we retain our pioneer identity and we offer families a great quality of life,” she said.
Rodeback said her previous experience on the council would make for a seamless transition into office, adding that “I would be deeply honored to be able to finish this term for my friend Barabara Christiansen, who taught me so much about the virtue of public service.”
The council’s decision to select Hunter over Rodeback largely rested on the fact that the former candidate said he planned on running for the council seat in the November municipal election, while the latter candidate said she had no intention of running.
Councilmembers Rob Shelton and Kevin Barnes said they preferred appointing someone who wasn’t running in November, which, they argued, would ensure that the appointed council member wouldn’t have an upper hand in the election. They motioned to approve appointing Rodeback to the vacancy.
But Councilmembers Staci Carroll and Clark Taylor said they felt the opposite way and believed appointing someone who planned on running was the most efficient move. They voted against the motion to appoint Rodeback to the vacancy.
Frost agreed that the best move was to appoint the candidate planning to run in November and broke the tie by voting against appointing Rodeback. The city council then unanimously approved a motion appointing Hunter to fill the vacancy.
Hours after the American Fork City Council special session, Frost announced that he will run for re-election this year.
“It has been my honor to serve the residents of American Fork City and I hope that I’ve earned your continued support,” the mayor wrote on Facebook on Friday.