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Midvale Candidate Hopes To Become Utah's First Transgender Mayor

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Sophia Hawes-Tingey, left, talks to supporters at her campaign launch for Midvale mayor at El Farol restaurant on March 25, 2017.

Midvale’s mayor of 22 years JoAnn Seghini is expected to retire this year, paving the way for a new leader to oversee the growing Salt Lake suburb — and at least one candidate is throwing her name in the ring early.  

Sophia Hawes-Tingey launched her campaign over the weekend, giving her pitch to a small group of supporters at a Mexican restaurant inside a strip mall in Midvale.

Top priorities, she said, are revitalizing the city’s main street and creating an arts district.

"The city of Midvale has a burgeoning arts community, but it's kind of like it's a secret out here where you don't know it, unless you know it," she said. "So I will work really hard with various organizations to see if we can bring some arts communities to establish a presence here."

Hawes-Tingey is no political novice. She ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2014 and Midvale City Council a year later. She currently serves as vice-chair of the community council.

Her candidacy is also historic in that she’s the first transgender candidate to run for a mayoral seat in Utah, a fact that she says is incidental to her identity but nonetheless important.

“One of the powers of the mayor is [making] an appointment,” said Hawes-Tingey. “So appointing good people that cover some of the intersectionalities that we’re missing is one of the vital things the mayor can do.”

Sandi Anaya is a Midvale resident who attended the campaign launch and supported Hawes-Tingey when she ran for City Council in 2015. She says she would like to see some new blood in Midvale government.

“We’re really in a changing phase with all the commercial that’s happening in the River Bottom area,” she said. “We need somebody who’s really ready to work, and I think it’s going to take a real go-getter.”

Although it’s still early — candidates can't officially declare until June — Hawes-Tingey said she wants to start fundraising and getting volunteers to be in a good position for the primary later this summer. The general election is in November.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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