A Man for the People

By Jake Glissmeyer

City councilman Chris McCandless resides at a comfortable abode near the southwestern portion of Sandy, Utah. When I arrive to interview him, it is a crisp cool evening; not quite cold enough for a jacket, but also not shorts and tank top weather. His front porch is not particularly decorated with anything save it be one piece of unique furniture; an original Snowbird ski lift, converted into a bench for sitting on. The councilman is wearing a plaid shirt, green cargo pants, and sandals along with a watch and glasses; not your typical politician ensemble you might expect. After exchanging pleasantries, he opens his office and releases his energetic yellow lab, named Charlie. I make the mistake of engaging Charlie early. This pup wants to play fetch and tug of war and he makes it difficult and distracting to carry on a conversation with McCandless.

Before McCandless and I start to chat, we look out his large floor to ceiling windows overlooking his backyard. In his backyard we see a fountain trickling down to a small pond containing a few fish and some ducks. As we make ourselves comfortable he reminisces of the past ski season, boasting in the fact he’s skied for each of the past 52 years.

Early on there are several things apparent; McCandless is happy to oblige with this interview. He’s sarcastic but soft-spoken; he’s genuine, long winded and loves to go on tangents. One of his tangents I found myself captivated with was a religious experience he told of climbing Mt. Orizaba and how he, through divine warnings, was prepared and able to save the lives of 2 fellow climbers and himself. McCandless is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, something he holds dear that certainly influences the way he governs himself as a representative of the people.

When he got his start in the political world he describes how there weren’t many obstacles and that he almost fell into it. He was basically appointed to his councilman position; because of this he only needed 4 votes to win. In a subsequent councilman election he ran unopposed. We shared a laugh as he wanted his unopposed campaign slogan to be “Chris McCandless: the ONLY choice.” Since then he has run another election unopposed but when he has had competition he makes sure to play by the rules and not do anything to degrade his or his opponent’s character.

McCandless expresses some difficulties of a councilman, “You gotta make decisions that are really unpopular,” he continues with the fact that his paycheck is rather slim compared to the real estate development he used to do. Clearly, he does what he does not for the money or the fame or popular vote; his motives are more selfless. “I’m running to help our community,” he states quietly but with passion.

McCandless wishes that those running in the presidential election would have similar motives. He detests that the nominees verbally tear each other down, bend the truth and attack each other rather than policy and change. In contrast and as stated earlier, he prides himself on running a clean race and never verbally tear down his opponent. Truly motivated by service rather than for personal gain we can see how genuine Chris McCandless truly is.

As a councilman, McCandless and the other councilors approve the mayor’s budget and then pass laws and ordinances in the city for things like the fire department, police department, parks and recreation, lighting, roads and so on. He continues and says the $100 million budget that Sandy City is allotted, comes from property taxes, franchise taxes, public utilities, and gas taxes among a few others.

When asked what an ordinary person may not discover simply by googling his name he chuckled and replied, “I’m pretty much ADD and crazy.” But he also remarked that you wouldn’t find or even be able to measure his level of commitment and obligation to serve the people that elected him. He certainly feels the weight of this solemn duty of representing the people of Sandy as a city councilman.