John Park: 30 years serving local governments
Oct 04, 2018 11:11AM
● By Jana Klopsch
Mayor Mike Peterson recognized John Park for over 30 years of service in local government. (Dan Metcalf/Cottonwood Heights)
By Cassie Goff | [email protected]
The City of Cottonwood Heights will conclude a chapter of its story as City Manager John Park wraps up his work in preparation to enjoy retirement. Park’s story begins in 2012 when he became only the second city manager the city had ever recruited. He had some big shoes to fill after the city’s first City Manager Liane Stillman had helped the city through its incorporation process. Park led the city through some transitionary periods while working closely with many different city committees, different iterations for the city council, contracted workers, many city staff members and hundreds of residents.
When Park began managing the city between the canyons, he arrived with over 20 years of experience in local government, in many different capacities, under his belt.
“I have done everything in city government, from being an officer and fireman, to a building official, to working with public works directors,” said Park.
Beginning his career in Tooele as a police officer, he eventually transferred to be a planning, zoning, and building official. He attended school after working hours to obtain his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Utah State and a master’s of public administration from BYU. After his education, he became the assistant city manager for Orem, where he stayed for 13 years.
Throughout his career, his favorite moments can be traced back to the creation of something timeless. Specifically, he enjoys going through the process to create and build something that will be maintained well into the future.
For example, in the early 2000s when he was working as assistant city manager in Orem, the city received funding from the recreation, arts, and parks tax (RAP tax) to build a pool, golf course and some new parks.
“It’s really neat to see the things we built that will be there for 60 years,” says Park.
In Cottonwood Heights, Park recalls two specific examples of creating something that will last for future generations. One directly came from the city’s historic committee. In 2015, the historic committee erected signs throughout the city, drawing attention to important historical sites.
“We put those up years ago and they are still neat,” Park says. “We had four signs that said ‘Poverty Flats.’ The area is really nice now, so we received all kinds of complaints. Everyone liked ‘Butler Hill’ and Danishtown,’ but they didn’t like ‘Poverty Flats.’”
Park also recalls the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2016 for the city’s first independently owned city hall building and the years-long process leading up to that moment.
“It’s not what I envisioned; I’m not a flashy kind of guy,” Park said. “Once the council and architect fought it over and decided, it became a really cool project and we did it just right. Everyone loved it.”
“It represents the city and what it is: it’s a cool, classy place that takes care of business.”
Throughout his time with Cottonwood Heights, Park witnessed the city’s leadership transition their scope of focus. He explains how in 2005, when the city was incorporated, the leadership did a fantastic job of creating the city and addressing “here and now” issues. Over the past few years, there has been a shift to looking toward the future.
“Cottonwood Heights has been growing up,” Park says. The city has been working on a master plan for Fort Union Boulevard, planned district development (PDD) studies for Wasatch Boulevard and the Gravel Pit, and re-vamping the overall city’s general plan.
“It’s been dynamic and changing looking towards the future, but it’s a big emphasis in what we’ve done,” Park said.
He hopes the city’s greatest potential will continue to be the aim, especially in regards to Fort Union Boulevard. and the Gravel Pit development.
As the growth potential within the city decreases, it has been difficult to find solutions that everyone involved can agree on. One of the most challenging things to balance with growth is the relation to positively impacting quality of life within the city.
“Building a typical single-family home takes a linear foot of street water and sewer; it’s a lost liter for the city because it doesn’t generate enough taxes to take care of the road and sidewalks,” Park said. “Intense development is what subsidizes single-family dwelling.”
Uniquely, Cottonwood Heights has a high level of involvement from residents and officials, so discussing issues such as balancing growth has been really rewarding for Park.
“It’s been very interesting to see the city council, planning commission and residents understand the intensive nature of what is needed,” he said.
In fact, Park will miss the people within the city most as he strings his fishing rods in preparation for retirement.
“The residents here care about themselves, their neighbors and their roads,” he said. “My employees are bright, intelligent, forward-thinking people. They positively influence the city.”
After Park takes a long vacation, he hopes to stay involved in local government in some capacity.
“I have been able to influence 35,000 people’s lives every day. Who can do that in a positive manner? Every day I come to work, knowing the things I do will bless people’s lives. That’s not going to stop.”