WEST VALLEY CITY — Mike Winder listens. Most of the time, anyway.
It says so on his campaign billboards and mailers, a promise the Republican candidate for Salt Lake County mayor backs up by displaying his personal cellphone number on them.
“I get calls every day, all day long,” Winder said during a recent interview from his campaign headquarters on the corner of 3500 South and 2700 West. “It’s been heartwarming to talk to hundreds of residents across the valley and hear about their concerns and hopes for the future of Salt Lake County.”
Chatting with residents, he says, “has been my favorite part of campaigning.”
He didn’t listen, though, when supporters suggested to him that putting his phone number on a billboard might not be a good idea. You never know who is going to call or what they might say, they warned.
“That’s just how he operates,” said Corey Rushton, a West Valley City councilman and friend of Winder’s. “He’s always been very accessible, always trying to get out and meet and talk with people.”
He also didn’t listen to family, friends and supporters who questioned his decision to run for county mayor so soon after his publishing deceit — the Richard Burwash revelations — came to light in November 2011. Burwash is the fictional name Winder admitted he created and used to write stories about West Valley City for local media outlets, including the Deseret News and KSL.com.
“He’s always had this determined attitude,” Aimee Winder Newton said of her younger brother. “He doesn’t give up. I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to still run after all that.”
The Burwash issue and the questions it spawned have lingered in the Republican race for county mayor between Winder and former County Councilman Mark Crockett, even though both candidates have said they would rather talk other issues, such as getting government spending under control.
But debates between the candidates have pointed to the Burwash incident as an issue of honesty. Can you trust someone who deceived the public, even if that deception was well-intended?
Winder hopes so.
“I’ve apologized profusely for using a pen name, and many people have accepted my apology,” he said, noting that Crockett is one of those who’s publicly done so.
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