ST. GEORGE — The newest member of the St. George City Council was sworn into office Tuesday alongside two incumbents who will continue to serve the city for another four years.

L-R: St. George City Council members Jimmie Hughes, Dannielle Larkin and Steve Kemp are sworn into office, St. George, Utah, Jan 2, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Council newcomer Steve Kemp joined incumbents Jimmie Hughes and Dannielle Larkin in taking the oath of office in the City Council Chambers before friends, family and city staff.

This will be Hughes’ fourth term and Larkin’s second.

Each was given the opportunity by Mayor Michele Randall to comment on either joining or continuing on the council.

“I always get much more than I give, and I think it’s the same way with my children, and it’s really the same with this community,” Hughes said of his time on the council. “I’ve been so blessed as I’ve ever been part of serving this community. That’s why I chose to run again.”

Both Hughes and Larkin gave a large amount of credit to city staff for helping the city operate the way it does and making it a great place to live.

“You really are the shining stars of our city,” Larkin said. “I appreciate the opportunity to be trusted to sit up in this space for four more years and I pledge to do my very best.”

Steve Kemp (right) stands with St. George Mayor Michele Randall after being sworn into office as the newest member of the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan 2, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

As for Kemp, he said he is looking forward to the future.

“I’m excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us, and I really do believe that St. George’s brightest days are ahead of it.”

In the general election, Kemp garnered the most votes out of the five candidates running with 12,334 votes, which equates to 22.17%. He was followed close behind by Hughes who had 12,006 votes (21.58%). Larkin came in third with 11,058 votes (19.87%).

Kemp said it was a bit of a surprise to see he had taken the most votes as he was up against the advantage of name recognition other candidates had.

“Being the top vote-getter to me was an accomplishment,” he said. “And that felt like that was a message from the residents that they’re ready for a little bit different brand of City Council. I hopefully can do right by them.

“And I’m very thankful to the residents, who put their trust in me, not just the 12,300 and change that voted for me, but all the residents. We represent all the residents in the city of St. George, the ones that voted for you, the ones that didn’t and the ones that can’t vote. So all 100,000-plus, we represent them and we need to think of their needs and think of what it is they expect from their city when we make decisions.”

Steve Kemp’s nameplate shows at the City Council Chambers where Kemp was sworn into office as the newest member of the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan 2, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Prior to running for City Council, Kemp served on the St. George Planning Commission where he said he became familiar with how city government ran and had contemplated running for office around three years.

A part of Kemp’s campaign included a pledge to get the City Council back on track as he felt it was getting distracted by broader sociopolitical issues that were outside of the council’s responsibility and ability to address. He repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he wanted to get the City Council back to “conducting the business of the city.”

As for what that will entail moving forward, Kemp said he plans to look at matters related to growth, particularly water.

“Growth is the big issue,” he said. “And those items are related to growth – water traffic, housing, affordability or attainability. … I think there are things we can do.”

He said he wants to “dive into the water a little bit more seriously with the Washington County Water Conservancy District” to make sure the city is using all the properties they are entitled to for water use.

When the 2023 municipal election season started, 18 people initially filed to run for St. George City Council. Along the way, however, individuals were either disqualified or dropped out of the race before the primary election.

After the primaries, incumbent Gregg McArthur was the last candidate to withdraw from the race, citing conflicts between increasing employment obligations and committing sufficient time to his family and serving on the council.

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