Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ogden's Boy Wonder Mayor Matthew "Boss" Godfrey To Call It Quits After Three Terms; Innovative But Occasionally Autocratic

On March 31st, 2011, Ogden's "Boy Wonder" Mayor Matthew "Boss" Godfrey announced that after serving three terms, or 12 years, as the city's mayor, he does not plan to seek re-election. Read the full statement HERE. According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Godfrey said he does not plan to seek another political office and will look for a job in the private sector. The Examiner has a video available HERE.

The term "Boy Wonder" is in reference to the fact that the 41-year-old Godfrey was 29 when he was first elected in 1999. The term "Boss" was appended by one of his critics, the Weber County Forum, as an outgrowth of an occasionally autocratic style of leadership on his part. Godfrey, who sought to "rebrand" Ogden, believes many of the goals he set when he first ran for office, such as attracting jobs, reducing crime and attracting residents to the downtown area, have been met. The Salt Lake Tribune notes that under Godfrey's watch, 107 acres of downtown redevelopment have been completed, with 91 more underway — almost doubling his administration’s goal of bringing 2,000 jobs downtown. According to KSL Channel 5, he originally intended to serve only one term, but decided to run for re-election twice after discovering the wheels of government moved slower than he anticipated.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com


Reviews of Godfrey's tenure are mixed. On the one hand, Robert Hunter, who heads up the United Way of Northern Utah and who lost the mayoral race to Godfrey in 1999, said “I’m one of his fans. He’s been a good mayor and Ogden has made a lot of progress.” On the other hand, Former Rep. Neil Hansen, a frequent critic of Godfrey’s methods and authoritarian style, acknowledged that Ogden is better off in some aspects but is worse off in others, criticizing the redevelopment debt run up by the city during Godfrey's tenure.

Some also question whether or not Matthew Godfrey might be too quick to take credit for the accomplishments of others. In a comment to the Tribune story, Dan S. wrote, "He's done a good job taking credit for what other people did to improve Ogden". A separate Tribune article entitled "LDS Church hoping hefty investment will shield its temples" indicates that it actually was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which took the lead in the re-development of the downtown area, spending an estimated $250 million to to help “build an atmosphere". Church-owned parcels on 20 acres surrounding the Ogden Temple now house two apartment buildings, offices and a planned strip of retail shops below more housing to front Washington Boulevard. One of the highlights is the 200-plus unit Colonial Court apartments in a once-dilapidated area west of the temple; occupancy rate is 95 percent. Even Godfrey tipped his hat to the Church, saying “It’s helped downtown immensely. Downtown Ogden 11 years ago was blighted, empty and sometimes unsafe. And that’s not the case anymore.”

KSL Channel 5 is currently running an unscientific poll, asking the question "How would you rate Matt Godfrey's 11 years as Ogden's mayor?" The responses so far:

-- Oustanding: 29 percent (42 votes)
-- Successful: 32 percent (46 votes)
-- Average: 16 percent (23 votes)
-- Subpar: 10 percent (14 votes)
-- Disaster: 13 percent (19 votes)

Possible successors include Weber County Public Information Officer Mike Caldwell, Johnny Ballard, who is Ogden’s project manager for the Riverfront redevelopment area, City Councilman Brandon Stephenson, and former Rep. Neil Hansen. Only the first three have actually registered personal campaign committees so far.

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