From classroom to city council, Sheldon Stewart reflects on changes in Riverton’s governmentFeb 23, 2022 06:09PM ● By Michael J. Jewkes
Councilman Sheldon Stewart has served over 10 years on the Riverton City Council. (Riverton City)
By Michael J. Jewkes | [email protected]
“I did have to learn early on that no matter what decision I make, I’m going to offend somebody.”
Approaching his 11th year on the Riverton City Council, Councilman Sheldon Stewart is the most senior member on the council. Stewart is as native to Riverton as it gets. “My second-grade class was where we have our council meetings now.”
From growing up in Riverton and serving over a decade on the city council, Stewart has a unique perspective on city politics. He has witnessed firsthand the changes brought in with Trent Staggs being elected as mayor. Since the former city councilman was elected, Stewart has seen some changes that benefit the city in large ways. Stewart says, “We increased our level of communication, we were more open in the way that we communicated things, we built a mission and a vision…and we focused on [them].”
Staggs and Stewart were not always on the same page, however. “We had a lot of conflict…in the beginning.” Before serving as mayor, Staggs served on the city council along side Stewart where there were often disagreements. Eventually there came a point where Stewart said, “Let’s put things aside...and grab lunch.” In doing so, he says, “We figured out that we’re 95% together on most things.”
Since then, progress in Riverton City government has gone through the roof leading to new parks, public works projects and new infrastructure. A recent survey conducted by the Riverton City Communications Department showed that over 93% of residents participating in the survey report being satisfied with the quality of life in Riverton City.
It would appear there is a lot to learn for government leaders in Utah from what Stewart has learned working on the city council. When talking about overcoming differences he said, “It seems…that sometimes in government we don’t recognize the reason for that difference.” The councilman doesn’t claim to always agree with his fellow councilmembers or the mayor. “We do have disagreements…but we know that we are doing the right thing for the community either way,” he said. Furthermore, he says that it requires what he calls, “strategic alignment” to overcome differences for the betterment of the community.
Stewart has worked hard to cultivate at least three ways for his constituents to communicate their opinions on specific topics to give him better direction during council meetings.
First, Stewart posts council meeting agendas on his website, sheldon4u.com, for residents to review before decisions go to the council.
Second, Stewart has a Facebook page, under the name Sheldon B. Stewart, where residents can access information about what is going on in the city to better participate in city politics.
Lastly, Stewart has individuals in each part of his district who communicate different concerns from residents in each neighborhood. This communication tree impacts his decision making on issues like zoning, commercial building and park maintenance.
Councilman Stewart was reelected in 2020 for another four year-term. He holds the title Mayor Pro Tempore on the city council and serves on a number of boards such as the Redevelopment Agency of Riverton City and Riverton Law Enforcement Service Area.
In late February, Stewart also announced his candidacy for the Salt Lake County Council District 5 seat. District 5 covers the southwest portion of the county.
"Over the past couple years I have continued to watch our county take advantage of the residents in the (southwest) area of Salt Lake County," Stewart wrote in his announcement. "As of late there have been a number of things that have concerned me and I have always said that it is ACTION not WORDS that is required of us."
Stewart planned to run on a five-pointed action plan to eliminate conflicts of interest, control excessive spending, ensure independence of the legislative branch, protect the interests of the county's southwest, and open communication to develop "strong relationships with community leadership."