Utah mayor was a true pub­lic ser­vant

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - OPINION -

“I am the mayor of a small city with an $18 mil­lion bud­get. Our city coun­cil spends two full days in bud­get work­shops and then many hours in sub­se­quent meet­ings, as they metic­u­lously re­view each in­di­vid­ual line item and make mod­i­fi­ca­tions. In con­trast, the full UTA Board spent only two to­tal hours on this mas­sive $600 mil­lion bud­get, did not re­view line item de­tails, and ba­si­cally rub­ber-stamped man­age­ment’s pro­pos­als.” — North Og­den Mayor Brent Tay­lor in a Jan. 5 com­men­tary in The Salt Lake Tri­bune

Be­fore he was killed in an at­tack in Afghanistan last week, Brent Tay­lor fought the bat­tle of Utah Tran­sit Au­thor­ity.

The North Og­den mayor — who wore the hats of fa­ther, sol­dier and politi­cian — couldn’t seem to do any­thing half­heart­edly. When Tay­lor was cho­sen to rep­re­sent We­ber and Box El­der coun­ties on the UTA board last year, the old guard at the tran­sit agency was so un­nerved they tried to deny him the ap­point­ment. They claimed it vi­o­lated nepo­tism rules be­cause his fa­ther was a Fron­tRun­ner train op­er­a­tor, and it took a rul­ing from State Au­di­tor John Dougall to force the board to seat him.

Once he was on the board, Tay­lor did some­thing other board mem­bers al­most never did. He started ques­tion­ing man­age­ment’s fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions. He chal­lenged UTA’s plan to bor­row $88 mil­lion when it was al­ready $2 bil­lion in debt. He ques­tioned why UTA dras­ti­cally dis­counted passes for Utah Val­ley Univer­sity and Brigham Young Univer­sity stu­dents.

Ul­ti­mately, he fought to dis­man­tle the board and re­place it with a more func­tional sys­tem, and the Utah Leg­is­la­ture did ex­actly that while he was over­seas.

Tay­lor’s tenac­ity in the face

of so much bu­reau­cratic in­er­tia says moun­tains about a man who was taken too soon from his wife, his seven chil­dren, his fel­low North Og­den­ites and the en­tire state of Utah.

Pol­i­tics for Tay­lor was about prob­lem solv­ing, not build­ing fief­doms or pro­tect­ing turf. It’s that at­ti­tude that led the Repub­li­can to join with Os­car Mata, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of We­ber County Democrats, to form “We­ber County For­ward.” As with UTA, Tay­lor and Mata were look­ing to re­place the county’s three-com­mis­sioner gov­ern­ment with a bet­ter sys­tem of checks and bal­ances.

Utah will never know how far Tay­lor’s star would have risen. Three days af­ter his com­men­tary ran in The Tri­bune in Jan­uary, he an­nounced that he was tak­ing a year­long leave from be­ing mayor to serve in Afghanistan. “Ser­vice is re­ally what lead­er­ship is all about,” Tay­lor said in his Face­book an­nounce­ment.

True enough, but lead­er­ship is also about courage. Brent Tay­lor was never afraid to do what is right.

The an­gels bet­ter be ready. Heaven just got a new re­former.

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