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Davis Journal

New Bountiful mayor achieving a lifelong dream

Jan 31, 2022 04:02PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

BOUNTIFUL–It started in a fourth grade classroom at Meadowbrook Elementary. Kendalyn Keyes Harris was elected mayor of her class, and it started her thinking that “I want to run for mayor in real life.”

That sparked a little something within her, and last November, she was elected Mayor of Bountiful, the first woman to ever hold the office and one of only nine women elected to city council positions in the community’s histroy. It was more than just a dream for her–it was her destiny.

“Growing up, I was involved a lot in student government,” the 1993 graduate of Viewmont High said while sitting in her new office at Bountiful City Hall. “I studied political science and communications at the ‘U,’ and I’ve always been interested in leadership.”

When her future husband James proposed, she told him, “Yes, I’ll marry you, but you should know that I want to run for public office—I just wanted to warn you, and he said, ‘Great.’ He’s been so supportive ever since.”

Harris said she’s always had a desire to “represent my neighbors. During my eight years on the city council, the people I ran into at the grocery store or anywhere else in town, I wanted them to feel they had a seat at the table when discussions or decisions were being made about the community. It’s been great to see changes that we’ve made on behalf of our neighbors.”

She credits one of her high school teachers, Darrell Bailey, who taught a class called “current issues.” He taught about the three branches of government, and Harris said “I felt enthralled listening to his lessons. I said, yes, this is what I want to do.”

At age 18, she ran for and was elected as a county and state delegate for the Utah Republican Party, getting involved in local issues and meeting political leaders. Active in the PTA and other community organizations as her children grew, she continued her journey towards seeking public office, inspired by other women who had served in Bountiful.

“(Former city councilmember) Beth Holbrook is my neighbor, and I looked up to her work on the council as well as Barbara Holt who had served previously,” she said. “It makes a big difference if you have examples, and they were both mentors to me.”

As 2020 rolled around, she decided that after eight years as a councilmember, it was time to take the next step.

“I thought that if I ran for mayor now and was successful, then I would serve for 12 years, and that seemed like a good amount of time,” she said. “I don’t want to be in city government for 20 or 30 years. I think service on this level is more effective if you learn what you’re doing, serve for a little while and then get out–let someone else have a turn.” 

She won two elections last fall–first the primary and then the general election, defeating two-term Mayor Randy Lewis. She said it was gratifying and humbling to know that “Bountiful was willing to hire a woman for this job. When decisions are made, and half the population is women, there are things where you get a more complete picture if you involve all the voices.”

Her husband and their four children, ranging in age from 21-14, were heavily involved in her campaign, holding signs on corners, and helping put other signs up in yards. She was told by many supporters that her gentle inclusive style is perfect for what the city needs, her “everyone has a seat at the table” philosophy.

“I am so lucky to have this incredible team here at the city–City Manager Gary Hill and Recorder Shauna Andrus, and all of our department heads,” she said. “And the councilmembers both old and newly elected who’ve been so supportive as we move into the future. I’m excited for our Master Plan that is really getting underway, for the addition of fiber as it comes to our community, for our new Washington Park. And I’m excited to be working with groups like the County of Governments and the Utah League of Cities and Towns, to be part of the legislative policy committee. I get to be part of this well oiled machine every day.”

Mayor Harris will be setting up office hours, and she concluded by adding that “I want everyone to feel welcomed in my office. I want to be inclusive of all Bountiful residents.”