Adherents of polygamous sect are named to vacancies by fellow churchmembers
HILDALE – The polygamous sect that has long dominated life here no longer controls the local public school or even the communal property trust its members once created, but on Tuesday it showed its influence still extends to the City Council.
Council members chose two faithful members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to fill open seats, rejecting bids by two outsiders to join the city’s government.
The new council members are Philip Barlow, 43, who works for the locally owned Streamline Automotive, and Edson Holm, 52, who owns a prefab home building business. Their selection keeps a solid FLDS hold on the council at least through 2008, when the next municipal elections will be held.
In choosing Barlow, the council passed over his brother, Jethro Barlow, 54, who had played a vital role as an accountant and in economic development in the community before being expelled from the faith in 2003. Jethro Barlow is currently a consultant to Bruce R. Wisan, the court-appointed fiduciary overseeing the United Effort Plan property trust. Wisan had sent a letter recommending Jethro Barlow to the council.
The other candidate was Wilford Williams, 25, whose family left the faith years ago. Williams works in construction and said he hoped to make up in “heart” what he lacks in age and experience.
Other than media and a couple of city employees, only one person turned out to watch the council deliberate: Richard Holm, older brother of Edson Holm, to whom Richard’s two wives and children were assigned in 2003 after he was expelled from the faith by FLDS leader Warren S. Jeffs.
The new council members took the oath of office immediately after Hildale Mayor David Zitting announced their selection by council members Joseph S. Jessop, Harold Peine and Lamar Johnson.
“One reason I voted that way is because if they were on the ballot today, the public would vote that way,” said Jessop, a longtime council member.
“Good point,” said Zitting, who opted not to make any recommendations on the candidates or participate in choosing the new members so it would be a “100 percent decision of the City Council.”
Hildale and the adjoining town of Colorado City, Ariz., are home to some 6,000 members of the FLDS faith.
The men fill seats vacated by Dan C. Jessop and William T. Jessop, both of whom resigned a month ago. Dan Jessop, 80, disappeared from the community about the same time, telling family he had been called on a “work mission.” The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has a “check welfare” notice posted nationally for Dan Jessop.
William Jessop has not attended council meetings in more than a year, in part to dodge subpoenas related to investigations into the FLDS church and Warren S. Jeffs, its once fugitive leader.
Jethro Barlow said after the meeting he was disappointed by but not surprised at the outcome. “I think they felt more threatened by what I might do than they needed to,” He said.
“The reason I feel we need input on that council is I feel there are a lot of issues the City Council is dealing with today they have never dealt with before.”
The complexion of the community may undergo vast changes in coming years because of reforms in the UEP Trust, which will soon have a new board that won’t be restrained by FLDS mandates.
The trust also has been reconfigured to allow residents to seek deeds to their homes, ending their days as tenants-at-will on land once managed by the FLDS church. Wisan also plans to stimulate growth of non-FLDS businesses in the community.
Jethro Barlow said he planned to try to meet with his brother – whose new role as a councilman may trump the FLDS prohibition against fraternizing with apostates – in an attempt to bolster relations between the UEP’s new overseers and the city.
As he spoke, Philip Barlow exited the Hildale City Offices.
“Congratulations, Councilman,” Jethro Barlow said, shaking his brother’s hand. “I’ll be coming to see you.”