Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, and an energetic and beloved figure in Utah politics, was killed Saturday in an incident in Afghanistan, where he was serving as a member of the state National Guard.
The unexpected death of Taylor, who was months from finishing his tour and is survived by seven children and his wife Jennie, drew an outpouring of grief in Utah and on social media late Saturday.
Last month on his 15th wedding anniversary, Taylor penned a post on Facebook about his “rock star wife,” who he said had been “superwoman through birthing and raising seven children, and through four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Utah National Guard has not publicly confirmed or discussed the circumstances of Taylor’s death, which was confirmed to CNN by a government official.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton, the state National Guard adjutant general, plan to hold a press conference at noon on Sunday to discuss the details of the incident. In a press release, the Utah National Guard said an unnamed guardsman was killed in Kabul Saturday in “an apparent insider attack” by an Afghan soldier. The incident is under investigation.
Initial reports indicate that the attacker was a member of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The assailant “was immediately killed by other Afghan Forces,” according to the release.
State and city leaders, including Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love and GOP Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, praised Taylor’s service and courage Saturday night on social media, as his constituents posted their remembrances of a mayor who was always available to them.
Friends described Taylor as a passionate and outgoing mayor who was continually looking for new ways to serve his country and his state. When he was elected to the City Council of North Ogden in 2009, and became mayor in 2013, he was determined to bring the booming economic growth that was happening in other parts of Utah to his town, which he felt had untapped potential at that time.
The Brigham Young University graduate returned to Afghanistan in January after serving two tours of duty during the Iraq War and one in Afghanistan. For his fourth tour, he took a temporary leave of absence from his mayoral duties.
Brent Chugg, who temporarily took on the role of acting mayor of North Ogden while Taylor was deployed, said Taylor was a “great patriotic person” who had “a great love for his country.”
Cox, who became friends with Taylor as they made the rounds of the “rubber chicken” circuit of Utah politics together, said Taylor’s motivation for entering politics was simple.
“He always wanted to give back and make the world a better place,” Cox said in a telephone interview Saturday night. “He is just one of the good guys, who had an incredibly bright future ahead of him.”
Cox noted that he also “cared deeply about the Afghan people and what they were trying to accomplish.”
“Serving in Afghanistan, he was able to share through social media with his friends and his city many of his adventures, and things that were happening over there,” Cox said. “Seeing that, not through the news media, but through his own experiences, really personalized it for so many of us in this now eternal war that we’re continuing to fight. We forget about the human nature of war, and he was able to bring that home to us in very personal, and funny, and powerful ways.”
Taylor’s last Facebook post touched on how inspired he had been by the elections in Afghanistan, as he encouraged people in the US to vote on Tuesday.
“As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote,” Taylor wrote. “And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ God Bless America.”