Ogden mayor bids farewell, hammers critics

Jan 4 2012 - 7:22am

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In the city council chambers at the Ogden City Municipal Building on Tuesday, Matthew Godfrey steps down from his seat and his role as mayor of Ogden. Godfrey served as mayor for the last 12 years. (ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner)
In the city council chambers at the Ogden City Municipal Building on Tuesday, Matthew Godfrey steps down from his seat and his role as mayor of Ogden. Godfrey served as mayor for the last 12 years. (ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- In his final address as mayor of Ogden, Matthew Godfrey stopped twice to collect himself. He spoke about how the pressures of public criticism had damaged the family name his father was proud of and how the death of his father four years ago affected him.

"People have said many things that were unfavorable and untrue, and my family name has always stood for integrity and honesty and hard work," he said.

"I've always conducted myself with integrity and honor, despite what people have said over the last 12 years."

He doesn't mind for himself, he said, but "I feel bad for my wife and children ... because of those who went to great lengths to sully the Godfrey name."

Godfrey spoke for 20 minutes to a room packed with nearly 150 people Tuesday, minutes before Mike Caldwell was sworn in to replace him.

Godfrey said his three terms in office had been a hard fight that he could not shirk.

He started his speech with a joke about his historically bad relations with successive city councils, with whom he was often accused of having poor communications.

The city council gave him an award recognizing his service, and he said, "It's very, very kind -- I never anticipated getting an award from the city council. There were prior councils where I figured they would declare a 'Get out of Ogden' day."

But, he said, "I leave this office with great glee," anxious to move on to new activities and challenges, and "I'm excited for the city," which he said will continue to grow under Caldwell.

Godfrey's administration was marked by controversy over a proposed gondola up Mount Ogden to Malan's basin; proposals to develop land owned by Weber State University and convert the Mount Ogden Golf Course into a subdivision; and building of The Junction and the Ogden River Parkway.

Despite those, he served three terms.

Godfrey didn't name his critics, but said one of his guiding stars was Revolutionary War naval leader John Paul Jones, who, when the going got tough in battle, famously said, "I have not yet begun to fight."

Godfrey had a list of quotes that he said personify how he saw his job as mayor: a constant battle that he could not give in on.

He said John Patterson, the city's chief administrative officer for much of his administration, had a Jones quote on his desk: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."

He quoted hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," and finished with former Utah Jazz owner and businessman Larry Miller, who he said told him, "Ninety percent of success is showing up."

Godfrey was puzzled by Miller's advice until he realized "what he meant by that is putting one foot in front of another when it's not obvious what you're going to accomplish by doing that."

He praised city employees as "hardworking, dedicated, incredible people" and told of visiting one employee who had put in an all-night work session two weeks ago to finish a project.

"He said to me, 'This wasn't the first time I've pulled an all-nighter, and it won't be the last.' We have employees that are dedicated to the mission and future of this city, and it's been a great privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with them."

Most of his talk, though, was aimed at his persistent critics.

He said he heard a joke once about how there are three types of people -- those who watch what's happening, those who make things happen, "and people who don't have a clue what's happening" -- but said he has discovered a fourth.

"There is a large group of people who want to make sure good things don't happen, and I pity those people because they have their reward ... they spent their lives fighting negatively all their life."

He made only one reference to former Police Chief Jon Greiner, who was fired last week because of violations of the federal Hatch Act. Godfrey said it was thanks to Greiner that Ogden has seen a 33 percent reduction in crime in the last 10 years.

His final request to the council was to consider changing where the mayor sits during council meetings.

When the council chambers were rebuilt early in his first term, Godfrey said, the mayor's seat and the seats of the council members were all on the same level.

Then the mayor's seat, and that of his chief administrative assistant, were set lower. He said that was at the order of a former council member who wanted to emphasize that the room was the city council's chamber, not the mayor's.

"I thought that was a great tragedy on the part of this enduring battle over who is over whom," Godfrey said.

He urged council members to let Caldwell sit at the same level as they, to show they are a unified government moving forward and not "on the kiddie table over here."

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