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Erin Mendenhall Sworn In As Salt Lake City Mayor

Photo of Erin Mendenhall getting sworn in as Salt Lake City mayor.
Nicole Nixon
Erin Mendenhall is sworn in as Salt Lake City mayor on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, on the steps of the City and County Building.

With a pledge to link arms with businesses, nonprofits and residents to tackle tough issues like affordable housing and air quality, Erin Mendenhall took the reins as mayor of Salt Lake City Monday afternoon.

After she took the oath of office on the steps of the City and County Building, the former air quality activist announced her first official change: making the impact on air quality a consideration in every decision the city makes.

“The kind of big, structural change we need to deliver on air quality can’t happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere,” she said.

Mendenhall also said she wants city government to work better for residents and hinted at removing barriers between departments.

“Residents don’t look to city hall and see dozens of departments and divisions, they see one government. Starting today, we’re going to start acting that way and ensure our constituents — all of them — get the service and care that they deserve,” she said.

Photo of a person holding a sign that reads "Shelter for all Mendenhall!" at the inauguration of Erin Mendenhall as Salt Lake City mayor.
Credit Nicole Nixon / KUER
An activist holds a sign that reads, “Shelter for all Mendenhall!” at the inauguration of Erin Mendenhall as Salt Lake City mayor Monday outside City Hall, where a few days earlier police swept an encampment of activists supporting the city's homeless. Mendenhall told reporters she’s looking for more emergency shelter space due to the closing of the Road Home's downtown shelter.

There was a heavy police presence around City Hall, where over the weekend police swept an encampment of activists supporting the city’s homeless and arrested 17 protestors.

After her inauguration, Mendenhall told reporters that she understands concerns about a lack of beds and is looking for more emergency shelter space now that the Road Home’s downtown shelter has closed.

“I wish that the state would have opted to keep (the Road Home) as an overflow shelter option through this winter,” Mendenhall said. “Clearly there’s a need for shelter options for people.”

The new mayor said she would also like to see an accessible tool such as a website where people can go to see how many beds are available at the three new homeless resource centers in real time.

City Councilmembers Andrew Johnston, Ana Valdemoros and Dan Dugan were also sworn in Monday.

Newcomer Dugan ousted former Councilman Charlie Luke by fewer than 200 votes in November.

Dugan, who campaigned against the inland port project currently planned adjacent to the Salt Lake City Airport, said he is “passionate about the quality of our people’s health and our planet’s health.”

Valdemoros, an Argentinian immigrant, was appointed in early 2019 to fill the seat vacated by Derek Kitchen, who was elected to the state Senate. She won a full term on the City Council in November.

Valdemoros gave the first part of her speech in Spanish and said that she is the first person from a racial minority group to be elected to a city position.

Johnston, who is now in his second term on the City Council, said he hopes the new year marks a turning point for city leaders to work together to tackle issues like homelessness.

“We’ve done well, but we can do better,” he said.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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