Word About Town

New Sheriff in Town

Longtime local architect Jack Thomas plans to “dream ahead and backcast to the present” in his new role as Park City mayor.

By Melissa Fields June 1, 2014 Published in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Park City Magazine

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Image: Mark Maziarz

The Political Path 

I got involved with the planning commission because I was concerned about the historical character of Main Street and the architectural character of the entire community. The planning commission gave me a taste for achieving development in accordance with code. I ran for mayor because I wanted not only to help people play by the rules, but also to shape policy.

Ask First

I think the political process occurs in the wrong direction: public input is not usually requested until political leaders have already decided what they intend to do. As an architect, I don’t design a house by showing up at the first client meeting with plans in my hands. I enroll the client in every phase of the process, which is how I operate as mayor.

Back from the Future 

Some of the challenges that Dana [former Mayor Dana Williams] faced included creating a more open government and building a well-educated and competent city staff. He accomplished both. It’s now a different era, and the community has different needs, including managing some very large redevelopment projects like Bonanza Park. Rather than thinking about the now when I make decisions, I consider the future first and then work my way back—or, to borrow a fly-fishing term, backcast—to come up with present-day solutions.

Staying PC 

We’re classically a small town, and along with the other core values—historic character, community, and the natural setting—it’s what people love about this place. But it’s also what has pushed us to become a place where many of the people who work here can’t afford to live here. I’d like to see the children who grow up here be able to stay in the community after they grow older. I think we can do that by becoming less dependent on the ski industry, which is also necessary in light of climate change. And we need to create incentives for more redevelopment projects that include affordable workforce housing through adaptive reuse of existing buildings.

The Mountain Accord 

As a city we’re very concerned with issues public transit addresses, like air quality, and getting people out of their cars is a good thing: cars stimulate growth in a way that consumes resources unnecessarily. We’re fortunate in that the mountains have both embraced and restrained Park City’s growth; if not for the mountains, we’d be another Sandy or Midvale. And for that reason, we need to go into the Mountain Accord (a Wasatch Mountains’ watershed protection and public transportation planning process) with our eyes wide open. I don’t want Park City to become a suburb of Salt Lake.

An Ideal Park City Day 

I’d start by sitting on the back deck with my wife, Margarethe, and a cup of coffee, watching the sun rise over the mountains while the dogs run around the yard. I’d catch up on both city and client e-mails before heading off to a field visit. I’d then stop by the Marsac building to catch up with [City Manager] Diane Foster, followed by a walk on Main Street to chat with merchants and friends. For lunch, I’d probably head off for a hike—Armstrong is one of my favorites. In the evening, I’m home again with Margarethe for dinner, a walk around the neighborhood, and a phone conversation with each of the kids.

The day would end watching an episode of Cosmos before dissolving into sleep with a book in my hands.

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