16 years of service: Saying goodbye to longtime Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth
Jan 01, 2018 11:45AM ● Published by Mariden Williams
“It doesn't matter what help they need; it's just the opportunity to serve them.” Bill Applegarth has been Riverton’s mayor for the last 12 years.
Riverton has changed a lot in the 16 years since Mayor Bill Applegarth first took public office in 2002. With the exception of the old Petersen development downtown, pretty much every commercial development in Riverton came into the city during Applegarth’s time in office, and the population has increased from 30,000 residents in 2002 to more than 43,000 today. “Our growth has come a long way. It’s really been a fun journey,” said Applegarth.
Applegarth was initially inspired to run for office when he was released from his position as a stake president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since he would no longer be spending quite as much time serving the church, he decided that he then wanted to “turn to service with the city, for the city, for the citizens,” and he put his hat in the ring for city council.
Then, in 2006, when the incumbent mayor decided not to pursue reelection, Applegarth decided he’d take the next step and run for mayor. “At first I tried to work full-time and be the mayor, and there was just too much to do for that, so I retired early from LDS church education and became a full-time mayor,” he recalled.
Applegarth’s favorite thing about being mayor has been the people. “We just have absolutely wonderful residents, and we’ve been able to do a lot individually with people to help them.” For the last twelve years, his personal cell phone number has been publicly available to all, allowing any resident with a question or concern to speak directly to him. “You want to be available to the people, because that’s really what it’s all about.”
“Many times people called, and they have no idea what department to go to, or how to get a service for Riverton. But they know the mayor’s office, so they call the mayor,” said Mayor Applegarth.
“That has been a wonderful, wonderful thing to take part in, is dealing with individual people, and trying to help them— sometimes in a small way, and sometimes in a more significant way. It doesn’t matter what help they need; it’s just the opportunity to serve them.”
One of the examples that sticks out to him most is that of an elderly widow living along Redwood Road, who called to ask about a big orange construction sign that the Utah Department of Transportation had left in her front yard.
Some time had passed since the road work, but nobody had been by to pick it up. Mayor Applegarth called UDOT and asked them to pick it up. When, after a couple of weeks, he noticed that it still hadn’t been moved, he and one of his sons pulled the sign up, loaded it into the back of his pickup truck, and returned it to the UDOT yard themselves.
“This sweet little widow lady was just so happy that it was gone from in front of her house,” Applegarth said with a laugh. “It’s no big deal to many people, but it made her happy. I tried to do it without her knowing, but she happened to see my son and I out her front room window when we were trying to pick it up. We tried to do it anonymously, but we got caught… those are the kinds of things that you really remember the most.”
Now that Applegarth’s time as mayor is drawing to a close, he’s decided to return to serving the LDS church. He and his wife Jeanne have submitted applications to go on a full-time mission. They haven’t received their call yet, so they don’t know where they’re going— they’ll find out in January— but they are hoping to serve overseas.
“We’re excited about that,” Applegarth said on his upcoming mission. “Obviously the LDS mission will consume our lives, as it should, and so we plan on being very busy and just moving from being mayor, to being a missionary.”
From one kind of service, to another.