Springdale openly gay mayoral candidate loses by slim margin

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Springdale, Utah, with a population of 547 and 80 percent registered Republican voters, weakened barriers during this year’s mayoral race; after eight years in office, Mayor Pat Cluff turns over leadership of this international tourist destination to someone new.

The candidates have a lot of similarities. Both are inn owners, and in fact, their inns are located across the street from one another. Both seek to keep the “village atmosphere” of Springdale. Both oppose franchise restaurants within town borders. Both are either on the town council or had been recently.

Their only open disagreement is on the timing on a need to update the town’s water infrastructure and streetlights.

Stanley J. Smith is an Orem, Utah native who moved with his family to Springdale in 1972 when his father bought the Bumbleberry Inn. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1982 and is married to Shirley Smith.

Mark Chambers is a Salt Lake City native who moved to Springdale in 2009 after purchasing Under the Eaves Bed & Breakfast. He graduated from the University of Utah and is in a civil union with partner Joe Pitti.

Chambers sponsored an antidiscrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity in April of 2012 that was passed unanimously by the town council.

“Springdale is an extremely welcoming town and the most difficult part about passing the ordinance was convincing others that it was needed because the culture is already so welcoming,” Chambers told QSaltLake at the time of the meeting. “There was no opposition from community groups or other council members.”

“I’d encourage everyone to come down and support Springdale and its local economy. It really is a welcoming and affirming environment for LGBT people,” Chambers said.

There are 306 registered voters in Springdale. Nearly 80 percent are registered Republican, 18 percent Democrat and two percent Independent. In 2012, nearly 83 percent voted for Romney and 16 percent for Obama. In 2008, 76 percent voted for McCain and 21 percent for Obama.

In the primary election, Smith received 95 votes of the 207 ballots counted, Chambers won 70 votes, and Council member and art gallery owner Kathy LaFave received 42.

Of the 232 voters who turned in a ballot — just shy of a 75 percent turnout — 109 cast their vote in favor of Chambers. To Smith — 117. Six abstained in the mayoral race.

“I was eight votes shy of winning to be mayor of Springdale,” Chambers posted on his Facebook page. “Thank you to all those that have supported me and Joe during this election. Though I lost, I relish the experience. Remember it is important to be involved in your community and elections, you can make a difference.”


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