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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Being a public servant

Feb 01, 2018 10:00AM ● By Cassie Goff

Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore was once told a great secret: even though he was a part-time mayor, his mayoral duties would be just the same as a full-time mayor. (Dan Metcalf/Cottonwood Heights City)

Cottonwood Heights has lost the only mayor it has ever known. Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore announced last year that he would not be running for re-election after 13 years of service. On Jan. 2, Mayor Mike Peterson was sworn in as the new mayor of Cottonwood Heights. 

During the swearing-in ceremony, Cullimore addressed Peterson and the two new members of the city council, Councilwoman Tali Bruce and Councilwoman Christine Mikell, to offer some advice. Instead of just discussing his recommendations on how to serve on the city council, Cullimore provided his advice in the form of ten commandments. 

The following are the Ten Commandments of Being a Public Servant, as offered by Mayor Cullimore. 

 I. Thou shalt be an active listener.

Do not patronize or think yours are the only good ideas. Citizens often have some of the best ideas. Remember there are two sides to every story. Listen actively but be slow to pick any position until all sides of the story have been heard.

II. Thou shalt study the issues. 

Know more and understand the issues better than anyone else in the room. Engage your mind before you engage your mouth. This requires discipline: a lot of reading and asking questions to better understand an issue. If you’re not up to speed on an issue, admit it and work hard to get there. Better to keep your mouth closed and let people wonder than to open your mouth on an uninformed issue and confirm your ignorance.

III. Thou shalt be decisive. 

Once you have studied the issue, be prepared to make a decision. Allow process to make a decision.

IV. Thou shalt develop a vision and share it. 

Be willing to modify the vision as information becomes available but be determined to execute on that vision. 

V. Thou shalt build consensus. 

There is a forum for debating and resolving differences: they are called work sessions. Some question why we so often vote in unanimity, as if that were a bad thing. What they did not see were the hours of debate and compromise required before taking a vote.

VI. Thou shalt understand your role.

 Leadership is not granted by stature. Like respect, it is earned. In our form of government, nothing is accomplished without three votes. The council must work with staff and council to achieve positive outcomes.

VII. Thou shalt actively represent the city in outside committees. 

It is crucial the city be well represented on regional, county and state committees. It ensures a seat at the larger table for the city. Over the last 13 years, we have brought in funding in excess of over 50 million dollars through such participation.

VIII. Thou shalt be available and responsive. 

Elected officials are responsible to their constituents. Respond to calls and emails within 24 hours. It shows respect to constituents when you do so, even if they don’t like the answer they receive.

IX. Thou shalt not accept a gratuity or anything like unto it. 

One time I had a developer offer to make a donation to my campaign. I asked if he had any plans in the next four years to build in Cottonwood Heights. He said it was possible. I respectfully declined. 

It’s tempting to think it’s a perk of the office. It is not. Stay as far from that line as possible. No amount of money, no lunch, no gratuity, is worth the appearance of being entitled or compromised. Integrity must be a hallmark of service. 

X. Thou shalt be patient and educate. 

It is important to educate on an issue before implementation. Sometimes when people don’t want to hear the facts, you must be patient in educating them so they are better able to understand why an issue is the way it is. 

Above all, respect the dignity of the human soul. We are a great community. Public service is a privilege. You have been grated the trust of the citizens of Cottonwood Heights. Remember that if you are doing your best, and serving honorably without motivated self-interest, the majority of the silent citizenry does support you. 

 Cullimore decided not to run for re-election in 2017 as his responsibilities to his business began to compete for his time with his mayoral duties. As his business is within Cottonwood Heights, he plans to stay involved with local government as an active resident. He anticipates being a resource for the new council members but hopes they will pave their own path for the city.