On the steps of the Salt Lake City and County Building Thursday morning, Mayor-elect Erin Mendenhall declared victory in the race to lead the city and announced plans for a transition to the mayor’s office.
The announcement came a day after her opponent, State Sen. Luz Escamilla, conceded the race after learning her chances of overcoming a 5,820-vote deficit would be unlikely with fewer than 10,000 votes left to count.
Mendenhall said she aims to make the transition “inclusive,” “equitable” and “seamless” for city residents and businesses. She also wants to “retain as much of the institutional memory we have in city government as possible.”
“I will not be requesting the blanket resignation of department and division heads,” she said. In 2015, then-mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski asked for resignations from dozens of department heads, which sparked controversy within city hall and led to a rocky start for her administration.
Rather, Mendenhall said she would assess whether individual members of Biskupski’s appointed staff want to remain in city hall. “It’s only then that we’ll begin discussing who is the right fit to help lead the effort moving our city forward,” she said.
Mendenhall has tapped Natalie Gochnour, director of the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute, and Maria Garciaz, CEO of Neighborworks Salt Lake, to lead her transition committee.
Rachael Otto will serve as Mendenhall’s chief of staff. Otto currently works as director of government relations with the Utah League of Cities and Towns and has previously worked as a city attorney for both West Jordan and South Jordan.
Mendenhall said after the official election canvass on Nov. 19, she will begin to hold office hours at public libraries in order to “give residents the opportunity to share their priorities for their neighborhoods and the city with me directly.”
The mayor-elect plans to meet with Biskupski on Monday to discuss the transition. “We both want what’s best for the city,” she said.
Mendenhall, who has spent six years on the city council, said she plans to submit her resignation for the council seat effective Jan. 1, 2020.
“I want to make sure that the city council has the best time available and also that District 5 residents are represented as contiguously as they can be,” she said.
Mendenhall said her administration would be “ready on day one” to deliver results for city residents.
“I really can’t wait to get started,” she said with a chuckle. “Like, right now. I’m ready.”