Provo Mayor John Curtis stepped onto the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium surrounded by BYU fans attending the 2016 homecoming game. He was one of a few politicians to receive an award for helping BYU purchase the Y on Y Mountain.
Community events are one part of mayoral life John Curtis has enjoyed since being elected as Provo’s mayor in 2010. Though Curtis has decided not to run for re-election, he enjoys what time he has left to spend in the community as a mayor.
“That’s actually the part of the job I love the most, is being out there in the community,” Curtis said in an interview at his office.
It’s easy to tell Curtis is a BYU fan from the signed BYU football helmet sitting on a shelf in his office.
Curtis himself spent some time studying at BYU. He studied business marketing in the Marriott School of Management and completed a semester abroad in Jerusalem.
Like some current BYU students, Curtis lived in the King Henry apartments.
“It’s kind of funny because not much has changed,” Curtis said regarding the apartments.
While on his semester abroad, Curtis received an LDS mission call to Taiwan. After serving his mission, Curtis returned and married his high school sweetheart Sue Snarr.
“I guess we were, if you can call it that,” Sue said about being high school sweethearts with Curtis.
“Our first date was two months before he graduated from high school, so not really. And then of course he left and did his mission and all that and I dated other people, but we hooked back up when he got back.”
Today Sue and I celebrate 33 years of marriage. Although we both grew up in Salt Lake City, I feel like our marriage is laced with Provo memories. This photo was taken at King Henry Apartments in 1981. Some of our dates included climbing Mt. Timpanogos, water skiing on Utah Lake, BYU Football games and of course the Christopher Cross concert at the Marriott Center. Those of you that know Sue know how lucky I am. For those that don’t know her I’ll just say that in 33 years she has never slowed down. She knows how to have fun, get things done, work hard and be beautiful all at the same time. Happy Anniversary and here’s to the next 33 years (in Provo)!
The Curtis couple moved to Salt Lake City after they were married so Sue could attend school at the University of Utah. Curtis commuted to BYU.
“I loved BYU,” the mayor said. “I was a little distracted because I was dating my wife and she was living in Salt Lake City. And then once we were married, I was commuting from Salt Lake City to go to school. But I just had a fabulous experience and look back on it with a lot of fond memories.”
After graduating from BYU, Curtis worked for a few different companies in a variety of places. He and his family spent time in Taiwan, Utah and California.
The Curtis family moved back to Provo approximately 20 years ago when Curtis became a partner at a company that built shooting ranges all over the world.
Curtis said deciding to run for mayor in 2009 really wasn’t something he had planned.
“It was a very emotional — it was not a logical decision at all,” the mayor said. “My business was here in Provo and that gave me some interactions with the city government and that kind of sparked my interest, and once my interest was sparked, it was a compelling force in me that said, ‘You gotta go do this.”
Curtis said he doesn’t have much free time as the major of Provo.
“After usually the end of the day, I have a couple of hours of emails I need to answer,” the mayor said. “So a lot of the spare time goes to family — like I said — for spending time with family, for trips and vacations. I like to exercise so I’ll usually try to take half an hour to an hour to exercise. Beyond that, it’s pretty much family.”
In the middle of his interview, Curtis got up out of his chair to show off his incredibly packed schedule on his computer. The schedule was color-coded, with events often going back-to-back and sometimes overlapping. Most of his calendar was filled with meetings and community events. The previous week he had traveled to China to recruit a business to come to Provo.
“You just go from one (thing) to the next,” Curtis said. “People are very understanding that I can’t be there for the whole thing and that helps a lot. People are just very good with their expectations. If I can show up, they’re happy.”
Despite his busy schedule, his wife said he still makes time for his family.
“He does spend a lot of time at his job, but it’s at a good time in our family’s lives because it’s not that critical that he’s here all the time,” Sue said. “He works hard but he also finds time for the important things.”
Deputy Mayor Corey Norman described Curtis as a person who enjoys going to events, but is not actually very extroverted.
“He is a closet introvert. You would never believe that he feels most comfortable on vacations with a book, just out on a bike by himself, because he functions so well within a crowd of people,” Norman said.
When Curtis isn’t working or spending time with his family, he enjoys collecting socks and posting pictures of them on Instagram. He said it’s one of the things that makes him feel like he’s a normal person.
“It’s vast,” Curtis said about his sock collection. “I actually have to give away a lot because I can’t wear them. If you were to go in my closet, you would see maybe 15-20 bins organized by color. A lot of what I do has to kind of be straight-laced. It’s one thing that lets me be — you know — I can wear socks like this in a formal meeting and get away with it, so it lets me kind of sneak out of the formality of all of it.”
Curtis engages with the community through other forms of social media, including Facebook and his blog at provomayor.com. He mentioned this is a very important part of his approach to being the mayor.
“It’s just been important to me to be a normal person, to be very hardworking, to be very transparent and to be very engaging, and so we’ve worked very hard on social media to be engaging with people and that’s fairly rewarding when we’re successful at that,” the mayor said.
Norman said he admires the mayor’s ability to be an attentive listener to anyone, even if he doesn’t agree with their point of view.
“He will give you 100 percent attention,” Norman said. “I’ve never been around somebody who could be in a room of people dealing with a contentious issue and everybody walk out of the room and say, ‘I disagree with him but I have an incredible amount of respect for him and I really like him.’”
Curtis said he has no idea what is in store for him personally after his time as mayor is over, but he has many goals for the future of Provo while he’s still in office.
“I want us to keep growing in vibe,” Curtis said. “I envision Provo as a little oasis in the world of high quality of life, of good people, a great place to raise a family. And that’s probably mission No. 1 is preserving that as we go forward.”
In the meantime, Curtis said he is happy to enjoy what time he has left as mayor.
“I love my job,” he said. “I feel like it’s an honor. It’s an unbelievable once in a lifetime opportunity to represent this city in this role. Every day I wake up and I feel grateful for the chance to be mayor.”