Sheldon Stewart: Salt Lake County Councilmember, ‘Star Wars’ fan, extreme fiscal conservativeFeb 02, 2024 09:20AM ● By Ella Joy Olsen
District 5 Salt Lake County Councilmember Sheldon Stewart with his oldest daughter at the Eccles Theatre (a Salt Lake County Arts & Culture venue) for the Mat and Savanna Shaw Christmas performance. (Photo Sheldon Stewart)
When he describes his role on the Salt Lake County Council, Sheldon Stewart says he’s one of three “extreme fiscal conservatives,” the others being David Alvord (District 2) and Dea Theodore (District 6), who often vote in a similar fashion on budget agenda items.
While he might be an extreme fiscal conservative in council, on his softer side, he’s also a self-proclaimed “big Brené Brown fan,” with his favorite of her books being “Dare to Lead.” And he’s been a huge “Star Wars” fan ever since he was a kid.
County Councilmember Sheldon Stewart serves District 5, which encompasses parts of Herriman, Riverton and West Jordan. It includes portions of West Valley City, as well as the entirety of Bluffdale. Finally, this District covers the portion of Draper that lies west of I-15 and the portion of South Jordan that lies east of Bangerter Highway.
Prior to his election to Salt Lake County Council in late 2022, he served for over a decade on the Riverton City Council, also serving on the Redevelopment Agency of Riverton City and Riverton Law Enforcement Service Area.
Sources of pride while on the County Council
One of the issues he’s worked on in his first year on the Salt Lake County Council, that he’s most proud of, is that he’s helped create an ethics policy for county representatives, in how they communicate with state legislators and other entities.
The new ethics policy should be completed before the 2024 legislative session and will put in writing who can speak on behalf of the county. In the past, he claims, there have been instances where the backing of the county legislative branch (the County Council) was implied in support of a project, when this wasn’t really this case. He aims for more transparency in communication.
He’s also proud that the county did not have to raise taxes this year. In fact, he doesn’t advocate for any tax increases unless it is to fund public safety (police and fire).
This year he, Alvord and Theodore advocated for a $32 million cut from the county budget. They succeeded securing reductions of $10 million by eliminating or shrinking some programs that were started during the pandemic, such as the Workforce Inclusion & Successful Employment (WISE) program and Division of Equity & Inclusion (DEI) staffing.
He’s pleased that the county has a AAA bond rating and believes that council does a good job in maintaining that rating, but he also believes that the “county doesn’t need to continue to spend,” worrying that the county may “duplicate programs and services that might be better covered by city budgets or via private/public partnerships.” He plans to continue to pursue this shifting of resources and funding by cutting staff and programs that he feels don’t serve all county residents equally.
Focus on the southwest corner of Salt Lake County
Stewart was triggered into running for County Council because, as a Riverton City councilmember, he didn’t think the former county councilmember (his opponent) was adequately representing the unique needs of the southwest corner of the county, and that Riverton, in particular, was not receiving their benefit of shared services. Services for which, he says, they were being taxed.
In particular, he has taken issue with UTA and is currently working on a plan to drive costs back to the city who utilizes the service. In other words, to tax in proportion with services received, meaning if fewer bus routes are available in a particular district, residents of the district would pay less tax.
He is pleased, however, that District 5 has recently received more county funds via the Tourism, Recreation, Culture & Convention (TRCC) program. “Tawnee McCay [Riverton County Council] and Lorin Palmer [Mayor of Herriman] have done a good job advocating for this funding,” Stewart said.
TRCC funding is a program where eligible organizations can apply for funding for consulting, capital, or tourism expenses, paid for by county dollars.
The best thing that happened to Stewart in 2023 was the birth of his first grandchild, a girl. “Receiving the title of grandpa is better than any other title I’ve ever received,” Stewart said, delight evident in his voice. “She brings so much joy.”
Aside from his role on the county council, Stewart recently started a new job with a consulting group that works in banking. And now that he and his wife Heather are empty-nesters (they have three adult married children), he loves to travel. His favorite type of trip: cruising. He also loves to build with his hands. Last year, Stewart designed and built a backyard shed that he’s particularly proud of.
When asked what “one thing” he’d like his constituents and county members to know about him he replied, “That I do things for the right reasons. I’m not making decisions to maintain political office or further a political career.”
He ran for county council because “county budget and governance affects everything from household budgets to standards of living,” and he wasn’t happy with representation at the county level for his community. But the Salt Lake County Council is, “where I stop.” He’s not looking to run for higher office. λ