Polygamous town elects first mayor who's not part of sect
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A polygamous group's dwindling control of a remote Utah-Arizona border town that it has called home for a century slipped further after four people not tied to the sect took over the mayor's office and other leadership posts.
Donia Jessop, who left the sect several years ago over discord with leaders, has become the first female mayor of Hildale, Utah, and the first person to hold the post who isn't a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Three city council seats also went to non-members.
The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.
The competitive elections were another sign of the major changes the community has undergone in recent years. In the past, the sect picked mayors and council members behind the scenes who would run unopposed.
Jessop defeated incumbent Mayor Philip Barlow with 61 percent of the 210 votes cast in the all-mail election, according to final results unveiled Tuesday.
Jessop said she's hopeful the transition will be smooth after Barlow and council members graciously accepted the results during a meeting she attended.
She said she wants to give residents better water and roads and explore using fiber optics already in place to offer internet.
"Big changes are heading our way," Jessop said. "There's so many things lined up and ready to roll."
Barlow, who was looking to win a second term, wasn't immediately available for comment. He said last week after initial results showed he was likely to lose that he will accept the will of the people and move on to other opportunities.