PAROWAN, Utah (ABC4) – Mollie Halterman was growing antsy watching the time pass while expecting to get some big news last Tuesday evening.
As a write-in candidate for mayor of the small but growing Iron County town of Parowan, with a population of around 3,000, she had worked tirelessly on a campaign built on positivity, inspiration, and action.
Although she wasn’t listed on the ballot, she had made a strong effort to canvas the town, share her platform and qualifications for the position, and had even provided visual aids on how to write in her name as the voter’s choice for mayor.
“Good golly, write in Mollie,” had become one of her campaign’s strongest messaging taglines.
As the votes were being tallied by officials with Iron County, she asked her husband, Sam, to accompany her around town to take down her signs and banners, while expecting to get news of the election results from a phone call or email.
Finally, around 10 p.m., as the Haltermans were cleaning up Mollie’s red, white, and blue signs scattered throughout the community, an email arrived from Iron County Clerk Jon Whittaker; things were looking good for her campaign as she had a sizable lead on the balloted candidates.
It was safe to call it – ABC4.com confirmed the tentative results with Parowan City Hall last week and the official results were released on Wednesday – Halterman had won the election in a landslide with over 50.4% of the votes compared to 24.5% by the runner-up, making her the first female mayor in the city’s 170-year history.
“I was just absolutely floored,” she recalls of learning the news the last week. “And so excited, because I just didn’t expect that turnout and not just the number of people that voted but just how strong that support came in for me. And it was so humbling and overwhelming.”
While she might have been shocked by the results, winning the city’s top job – a first not only for a female but also for a write-in candidate – Halterman is confident she is qualified and prepared to hold the office thanks to her time as the President of the Chamber of Commerce and the effort she made to learn from other leaders in similar communities.
“That was critical for me to know that I could be effective,” Halterman explains. “And once that kind of all came together, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it.’ And then I was all in and it was great, I could not have done it without help. It was really exciting to have the community get behind me.”
Halterman’s trailblazing election comes on the 125th anniversary of the first time that Utah women broke through and held public office. On last Wednesday’s date in 1896, in Utah’s first statewide elections after receiving statehood, 14 women, including Dr. Martha Cannon, who was placed in a state senate seat, were elected.
While much has changed since the 1890s, the election results in Parowan’s mayoral race were still quite unprecedented. Interestingly, Halterman noted while looking through the city’s municipal code in her preparation for the race that every reference to the mayor and their responsibilities was made in he/him pronoun form. She expects that to change when she takes office.
Getting the code corrected was one of her last concerns throughout her campaign. Despite her experience working as a bridge between the city government and the local businesses, Halterman, who owns a gym in Parowan, wasn’t even sure she would enter the race until the last minute. She was spending most of her time away from her small business serving as a caretaker to her mother, who was sick with a terminal illness. While caring for her mother at home, Halterman says she was consistently encouraged by her mom to take the next step in her community involvement by running for mayor. She put it off.
“She would say ‘Just do it,” Halterman recalls her mother saying. “But I was like, ‘Mom, no. This time with us together is too important.’”
However, when her mother passed shortly before the deadline to declare as a write-in candidate, Halterman took the plunge and threw her hat in the ring.
Along the way to ultimately winning the race, although the official results have not yet been announced, Halterman was amazed by the support she received. Her best guess is that her message of optimism, headlined by another one of her campaign slogans, “Positively for Parowan,” gave her a leg up.
“I do believe that optimism and positivity is the strongest catalyst for change,” Halterman states. “I think we all hear too much negative, all feels too big and too overwhelming. When everything we hear is negative, I don’t think it inspires. But when you talk about positive change, people feel energetic, they feel energized, they want to be around that energy, they feel like they could make a difference.”
Her other platform came in calling for others to get involved in the close-knit community, echoing a bit of an expression coined by John F. Kennedy in her messaging.
“Politicians used to be our leaders and people that inspired us by saying ‘Ask not what you can your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country?’ And that was one of my biggest tagline lines, not ‘Why do you love Parowan?”, but ‘How do you love Parowan?’”
Eager to get going in her new position, Halterman, is excited about Parowan’s future. She could have waited for the next election to get her name on the ballot, but she strongly felt now was the right time to get involved. It paid off in a big way.
“We’re in, you know, a tremendous growth phase right now and our next four years are critical,” Halterman explains. “I had to think about waiting may be running four years from now. But I realized these next four years are too critical to just sit and wait and see what was going to happen, I had to get involved.”