An interview with mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski

Jackie Biskupski, who served in the Utah House of Representatives for over 12 years as the first openly gay legislator in the state, won election as Salt Lake City Mayor by a three percent margin against incumbent Ralph Becker. Biskupski garnered 19,896 votes to Becker’s 18,702 — a 1,194 vote difference. With this election she becomes Salt Lake’s second female and first lesbian mayor.

She will take the oath of office on January 4, 2016. In the meantime, Becker has promised his full support for a smooth transition.

We were able to get her thoughts the morning of the official canvass, which validated the vote.

When did you see a turning point in the election where you first pulled ahead? And what do you attribute that to? I always expected it to be a tough campaign; running against a popular incumbent with a large war chest is a significant challenge, but I wouldn’t say there was a defining turning point. From the very beginning of our campaign until the very end we were hearing the same thing from residents, that they were eager for a more inclusive, responsive and transparent city government. In fact, it’s what I was hearing from residents even before the campaign began and it’s one of the reasons I decided to run this year.

Once you take the oath of office, what will Salt Lakers see in the first 100 days? Residents of Salt Lake City will definitely see a new tone and style from City Hall in my first 100 days. My goal is to build a city government that is easy to work with — whether you run a small business, live in Salt Lake City or commute here for work or fun — City Hall, beginning with the Mayor, needs to be responsive to the needs of the people and reflective of the people who live in the city. Throughout the campaign I have been keeping a list of concerns that I have heard from city residents and businesses. I have sent staff out to investigate issues and throughout my transition I will be soliciting more resident feedback so that when I take office my team can hit the ground running to solve some of the problems that are affecting residents on a daily basis.

From a larger policy standpoint, I have repeatedly stated that addressing our city’s homeless crisis will be on the top of my list. Anyone who has been down to the shelters in the Rio Grande area and seen children living in these circumstances as I have will understand that we have a moral obligation to quickly and effectively address this problem. We are some of the most generous people in the country and I know that with the right leadership and plan, our city will rise to implement a coordinated plan that addresses this issue.

What can LGBT Salt Lakers expect from you; and what can the general community expect from you as mayor? The LGBT community in Salt Lake City can expect the same thing from me as the general community: honesty, transparency, accountability and a commitment to equality. We have come a long way in our city and state to address the social issues that divide us — largely led by the values and voices of the capital city — but we have a long way to go to achieve true equality for all people. I will be a strong advocate for a cultural shift toward respect for all as individuals — a value that Salt Lake City residents hold dear.

In a city as diverse as Salt Lake City — a place where over a hundred languages are spoken — we must ensure our city and its local government embraces everyone. Many of my supporters backed me because of my commitment to create opportunity for all people. Throughout my career, giving people a voice and lifting up marginalized communities has always been at the forefront of my public service, and it should be equally as important to the LGBTQ people. As we continue to advance in our movement for full equality, we must realize, true equality for us will only exist if everyone in our community is moving forward with us.

Personally, what does this mean to you and your family? Was this a long-term hope of yours? We are all very excited about my opportunity to lead and affect change. Archie is probably most excited because he is happy the race is over, that I won, and he gets to go anywhere he wants, and he wants to see his grandpa, which we will be doing very soon!

As for me, the first time I ran for the state legislature I endured the vilest attacks on my character and person by the Eagle Forum and a group that was created just to do the battle against me, The Citizens for Strong Families PAC. While this race certainly got heated at times, nothing reached the level of vitriol of that race, and I think that says a lot about how far we have come as a city and state — that means a lot to me. I fell in love with this city more than 25 years ago when I came here on a ski trip. It has been an honor to serve the people of this city for a large portion of that time and I am grateful the residents of Salt Lake City have placed their trust in me to be their next mayor.

Anything else you want to say to QSaltLake readers? Please stay involved if you already are and get active in your community if your are not. We will only solve the issues that face us if we are all engaged. We will only move forward if we stand together. We are the capital city — we bring a unique energy and perspective to this state — and our voice must be heard to get the job done. Q

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