An ear-to-ear grin is typical upon meeting Park City Mayor Dana Williams on the street, at the post office or in a local coffee shop.
Dana Williams, Park City mayor for the last 12 years, announced last week that he will not seek re-election this fall.
According to the Park Record, Williams agonized for the past several months, but finally came to a decision while on vacation this spring. Williams first took office on the eve of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Over the course of three terms, he oversaw unprecedented growth in Park City along with extreme economic challenges. While Williams is likely looking forward to stepping out of the spotlight when his term ends in nine months, it's not likely this will be the last we’ll hear from this Park City icon.
I first met Dana soon after I moved to Utah almost 20 years ago. I’d landed my first journalism job—Arts & Entertainment editor at the Park Record newspaper—and Dana was a common fixture in the newsroom. Dana didn’t have a job at the Record, but he certainly worked it. He was a realtor then but spent most of his time on CARG, Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, an alternative voice to mounting development pressures in Summit and Wasatch counties. I can’t even imagine how many hours Dana spent at City Council and County Planning Commission meetings then—probably more than he has as mayor. CARG was so persistent in their quest for preserving open space, the organization’s unofficial moniker was CAVE—Citizens Against Virtually Everything. CARG targeted what is now known as Empire Pass in particular. And though many people I know miss the wilderness that once dominated that area, if not for CARG development there would be five times as big and concentrated.
Dana (far left) plays with the Motherlode Canyon Band, a Park City music scene fixture since 1993.
CARG earned Dana the political clout to run for mayor in 2001, the first of three elections he won with relatively wide margins. Not surprising, protecting the environment has been a big focus of his administration: In 2005, he signed the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection agreement and has made reducing the city’s carbon footprint a priority ever since; he’s led city efforts in purchasing open space; and with the City Council is currently considering banning plastic grocery bag use in Park City. But much in the same way he was able to compromise with corporate developers as a member of CARG, Dana acknowledges the importance of continuing to grow Park City’s economy, believing environmental and economic sustainability can go hand in hand.
I see Dana once every several years, usually walking Main Street with a coffee in his hand. Every time our path’s cross he welcomes me with his characteristic grin and so-glad-to-see you manner. As far as mayors go, Dana definitely broke the mold. He remained front man for the Motherlode Canyon Band throughout, eschewed a coat and tie for Hawaiian shirts and jeans and had no qualms about working as a barista to make ends meet. I don’t envy whomever decides to step up to the plate to fill Dana’s shoes this fall. I think it would be like stepping on stage to perform after a set by U2 or The Beatles.
Melissa Fields is a Utah-based freelance writer. Her blog is utahvagabond.com.