[media-credit name=”Brandon Stephenson” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]When Brandon Stephenson graduated with an MBA from Weber State University 11 years ago, he had no intention of entering politics.
Now, after serving nearly eight years on the city council, and hearing that Ogden’s current mayor, Matthew Godfrey, would not be seeking a fourth term, Stephenson is hoping to win the upcoming primary election and the chance to serve as Ogden’s next mayor.
“The city is on a precipice,” Stephenson said, “in terms of what’s going to happen in Ogden’s future, economically, and in our neighborhoods, and for the image of Ogden and whether we can bring businesses in. Ultimately this election will determine whether or not Ogden is forward-looking and if we can overcome some of the general problems like infrastructure, and crime and revitalizing our neighborhoods.”
Stephenson said he didn’t become interested in politics until he decided to help the then 29-year-old Matthew Godfrey with his first election. The two had gone to high school together, and Stephenson decided to help with his campaign.
“I wasn’t really interested in it, I just thought it would be kind of a new experience, and I wanted to be involved,” Stephenson said. “I just knocked on doors and talked to folks, and I did enjoy that.”
Four years later Stephenson decided to run for the city council, and won.
“It was one of those things where I’m not sure that I ever really thought it was a great idea, but I liked it because I love Ogden,” Stephenson said. “And Ogden had had such a tough time, especially economically for the previous years, that I just wanted to get involved and try to make it better.”
Stephenson mentioned the creation of the Junction and the Solomon Center in downtown Ogden as a couple of his most important decisions on the city council.
“[TheSolomonCenter] was kind of a controversial decision,” Stephenson said, “but it was really the lynchpin to the entire Junction/mall site area. If the Solomon Center wouldn’t have happened, then Larry Miller wouldn’t have brought his theaters there, and Boyer wouldn’t have completed the development, and the hotel that’s going in now never would have been there. And it was at a time in Ogden when nobody wanted to be the first person, so we kind of had to finance the Solomon Center as a business/government partnership.”
It is continuing that kind of collaborative approach that Stephenson describes as one of his main goals as mayor, and one that acknowledges the desire for more communication that has been a major criticism of the current mayor.
“The administration has to have a good working relationship with the city council,” Stephenson said, “and Mayor Godfrey hasn’t always had that good working relationship. Having come from the city council, I can tell you that all they want is to be informed of things before the decision is made, and to have all the information they need in order to make their decision, and to understand the issues that we’re grappling with.”
As a council member, Stephenson worked with his neighbors on the issue of the legal sale and use of spice, a man-made marijuana-like substance. The community discussions resulted in the swift approval of a ban on the manufacture, distribution, use, possession and purchase of spice within the city. Ogden was the first city in Utah to approve such a ban.
“He did a really good job on the spice project,” said Neil Garner, a current city council member who has served with Stephenson for the last 2 years. “He has been a sound individual on the council and a good listener.”
Stephenson said his experience in public service has given him a special appreciation for others in the community who take the initiative to get engaged themselves. One such scenario led to his meeting Monalisa Wald, an Ogden resident and WSU graduate who began volunteering with his campaign after working with him in her own neighborhood, an area of Ogden formerly known as Ron Claire.
Armed with her camera, Wald set out to record damaged infrastructure, code violations and safety hazards around her neighborhood. She emailed them to Stephenson and several others in the city government and was determined to have them fixed.
“I approached Brandon three years ago when we were having some major challenges in our neighborhood,” Wald said. “He was immediately receptive to our concerns and facilitated a group meeting with myself and 11 other city officials to help find solutions to those problems.”
The discussion and planning that took place in their initial meeting led to the realization for both that what was needed was mainly information for citizens about the resources that were already available to them and what the city could help them accomplish. They worked together to organize a community fair and encouraged neighbors to get involved in revitalizing the area.
“People need to be out, and to get engaged,” Stephenson said. “Ogden is a really cool, unique place that was kind of down on itself and needed to have some good successes. I think some of that has happened, and I really think there’s so much more potential in Ogden. So I guess that’s why I’m still here, because I just want to make sure that momentum continues.”
Ogden’s Municipal Primary Election is September 13. For more information about the election visit www.ogdencity.com.
For more information about Brandon Stephenson visit www.brandon4ogden.com.