Times-Independent Voter Guide 2017
Aug 03, 2017 | 1715 views | 0 0 comments | 93 93 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayoral Candidates 2017
Mayoral Candidates 2017
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As the city of Moab prepares to hold a primary election on Aug. 15 to narrow the field of candidates for mayor of Moab, The Times-Independent asked the four candidates to introduce themselves to voters and answer several questions about issues that are of concern to the community.

One mayoral candidate — Patrick Trim — withdrew from the race in early June. A candidate for Moab City Council — Georgia Russell — also withdrew her candidacy, narrowing the field for two open city council seats to four candidates and eliminating the need for a primary election in that race.

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will compete in the mayoral race in the general election. This year, Election Day is Nov. 7.

All Grand County voters who are registered Republicans will also cast votes in the Republican primary to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz. The names of the three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the general election — Tanner Ainge, John Curtis and Christopher Niles Herrod — will be included on the ballots sent to registered Republicans, both in the city and countywide.

Beginning this year, elections in the city of Moab will be “vote by mail” elections. Ballots were mailed to all registered city residents during the last week in July. Residents who have not received a ballot should contact the Grand County Clerk’s office, 35 E. Center St., 435-259-1321, to check the status of their voter registration and request a ballot.

Voters who reside within the Moab city limits can return their completed ballots by mail or deliver them in person to the Moab City Recorder’s office at Moab City Hall, 217 E. Center St., by Aug. 15. Ballots can be hand delivered to the polling station on the day of the primary election.

Online voter registration is available at: vote.utah.gov. To vote in the primary, voters must register online at https://vote.utah.gov, or in person at the Grand County Clerk’s office by Aug. 8. Additional information is also available at the city website at: moabcity.org (click on the “Elections” button in the lower left of the page).


Norm Knapp


1. Tell us about yourself and why you want to be Mayor of Moab? Also, explain how much time you plan to devote to the job.

I moved to Moab 10 years ago and never intended to stay, but I fell in love with the beauty that surrounds us and the uniqueness of our town and the people. Now I can’t imagine living any place else. Most importantly, I’m a dad. I have a daughter that will be a Red Devil in just a few weeks and it is important to me to give back to our community and leave it just a little better for all our citizens and the generations to come.

Early on in my life I served in the Navy for five years and have been either the manager or owner of a car business for 29 years. I was the Chamber of Commerce president for three years, I have been a businessman in Moab for 10 years and I currently own my own business. I understand how important it is to balance the needs of the business community with the needs and views of the citizens of this great city.

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important job responsibilities of the mayor?

The most important job a mayor does is to make sure that our city government is serving the citizens. We need to stretch the tax dollars of our citizens as much as we can and be accountable for each dollar and transparent with each dollar. The mayor must also respect differing points of view and work well with a diverse group of people to bring about creative solutions. The mayor can affect change without mandating government action but it is important to be willing and able to make tough decisions to balance the budget and limit the impact of city government on our citizens.

3. What unique skills and experience would you bring to the job of mayor?

First off, my business experience; meeting a budget and making the difficult decisions to stay in budget is something we need in Moab. I also have a talent and experience in bringing people together toward a common goal. We all love Moab and the wide range of opinions can be a challenge, but it can also be a great opportunity. We need a mayor that is experienced in working with a wide range of people respectfully and honestly to bring the best out in all concerned so that we can find solutions that build our community rather than tear it apart.

4. What are some of the specific initiatives you would like to pursue as mayor?

One of the first issues I’d address is to make our city government, including myself, more accountable to you. I would significantly increase outreach to the community. I firmly believe that we can find solutions to our affordable housing issue if we pull together and try some out of the box thinking. We must also find solutions for the traffic issues we face. The answers won’t be easy but we have such a great, diverse community and I know the answers are there.

5. What do you consider to be the top two or three issues affecting Moab residents and what actions would you take to help resolve those issues?

Traffic is a huge problem, housing and preserving our small town atmosphere as we welcome the world to our home. I believe we can find high-density housing that will fit our community. We have to make a decision about traffic. We can’t just shut the town down so we need to figure out a creative way to deal with traffic issues that preserves our hometown feel but also deals with the reality that we will likely face an abundance of traffic for the foreseeable future.

6. What do you believe are the most serious problems the city as a government entity is facing, and how would you approach solving them?

I think government at all levels is suffering from a lack of trust from the citizens they serve. I use that phrase specifically; city employees and your elected officials are here to serve the citizens. I think the mayor has a great opportunity to lead in being accessible and accountable to the citizens.

7. How, if at all, do you envision working with other elected officials outside of Moab?

I love showing off our city to other people. I would work with other elected officials in the same way I’d work with the citizens of Moab — with a spirit of respect, honesty and cooperation. I would encourage those that don’t understand our unique issues to come and visit and see firsthand some of the problems we face.

8. What ideas do you have for working to diversify Moab’s economy?

We need to encourage other types of businesses to locate in our area, but we must be careful that we do not fall into the same trap some cities have. If we use any kind of incentive to bring other types of business to our city those incentives must be post-performance so that they bring the jobs and income into our city before they reap any benefit.

9. How do you envision your role as mayor in terms of interacting with residents, visitors, city staff, the Moab City Council, and county government?

I would reach out to all concerned. We are all part of the fabric of this community and I think as mayor it is important to reach out and listen to the ideas and concerns of all stakeholders. Our citizens must play a key role in the future of our city.

10. Why should voters choose you to be Moab’s next mayor?

I believe I am uniquely prepared to meet the challenges we face as a city. We have some tough issues to solve and we need a leader with business experience to work on budget issues as well as the experience and talent to bring people with different points of view together to work with each other instead of against each other for the good of our great city.

Emily Niehaus


1. Tell us about yourself and why you want to be Mayor of Moab? Also, explain how much time you plan to devote to the job.

My name is Emily Niehaus. I grew up in Ohio as the youngest of six kids. I moved to Moab in 2002 and married Chad Niehaus. I am a wife, mother, an affordable housing advocate, and an experienced businesswoman. I want to be Mayor of Moab because I am passionate about being of service to others, and right now our city needs an active and engaged professional to lead. I am committed to dedicate the time it takes to provide this needed leadership, and my family and board of directors of Community Rebuilds are behind me in this endeavor.

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important job responsibilities of the mayor?

The mayor is ultimately responsible for making sure that staff and council have the resources they need to run our city. Every other week, the mayor serves as chair of the city council meetings. And on a broader scale, the mayor cuts the keys for unlocking our community’s potential with broad networking, maintaining new and existing partnerships, and fundraising.

3. What unique skills and experience would you bring to the job of mayor?

Since I moved to Moab in 2002, I have been a caseworker for the State of Utah, a loan officer at a local credit union, and a bookkeeper for a Utah-based bicycle tour company — all of which led me to becoming the founding director of the local affordable housing developer, Community Rebuilds. I know how to develop, analyze, and meet budgets. I know how to manage and pay employees. And, I have experience with the building development process, connecting with and developing infrastructure, and expanding economic opportunities for residents. Most importantly, I am a creative problem solver. I see challenges as “opportunities” rather than “obstacles.”

4. What are some of the specific initiatives you would like to pursue as mayor?

I am committed to foster an accessible, welcoming, and respectful culture in City Hall by ensuring that staff and council have the resources and support they need to be effective in their work. I will also pursue addressing the full spectrum of housing needs in our community, enable economic diversification with creative projects, and addressing our infrastructure needs by supporting staff and council to complete existing projects on time and under budget as well as develop a critical path for our projects next in line.

5. What do you consider to be the top two or three issues affecting Moab residents and what actions would you take to help resolve those issues?

• A lack of affordable housing opportunities — I will connect developers with resources and work to clarify development procedure to make it easier for companies creating housing in Moab.

• Aging and absent infrastructure — I will support our various City Departments and our partners by getting us the resources we need to further develop Moab’s grey and green infrastructure.

• A lack of economic diversity — I will explore partnerships and funding opportunities that support existing and new businesses in Moab to provide residents with more employment choices.

6. What do you believe are the most serious problems the city as a government entity is facing, and how would you approach solving them?

Our most serious problem is a lack of vision and common ground among staff, council, and citizens of Moab. My approach to solving this will be to foster an accessible, welcoming, and respectful culture in City Hall as well as co-create a new vision for the city of Moab.

7. How, if at all, do you envision working with other elected officials outside of Moab?

I will maintain the relationships we currently have upstate with the Utah Legislature as well as expand our relationships with other rural, western towns facing similar issues.

8. What ideas do you have for working to diversify Moab’s economy?

Bringing the fiber-optic cable network to our residential neighborhoods can support entrepreneurs within our community to create a new business or expand upon their existing work. Addressing affordable housing and infrastructure development will increase our city’s capacity to expand business opportunities. And having a resident-centered vision and approach to growth will help shape the industry we seek to recruit to diversify job opportunities for Moab residents.

9. How do you envision your role as mayor in terms of interacting with residents, visitors, city staff, the Moab City Council, and county government?

We are better when we work together. I envision my role as mayor to be a dedicated and accessible public servant to city residents, city staff, and our city council. As for visitors, I would like to continue to improve on their experience in Moab by supporting local businesses that provide them services while helping them get out and enjoy Moab’s landscape without negatively affecting the fabric of our residential neighborhoods. And finally, I believe that the city of Moab, Grand County, and San Juan County governments are all in this valley together. I will work hard with Grand and San Juan County and support city staff and city council to do the same to foster better communication and management of our valley’s resources and opportunities. Together, we are better.

10. Why should voters choose you to be Moab’s next mayor?

I am dedicated to our community and to providing positive, forward thinking leadership that puts residents first. Our city needs an active, engaged, and creative professional as a leader, and I am the right businesswoman for the job. I love living in Moab, and I am committed to serve as Moab’s next mayor.

David Olsen


1. Tell us about yourself and why you want to be Mayor of Moab? Also, explain how much time you plan to devote to the job.

Hi, I’m David Olsen and I have lived in Moab for almost 28 years. I have a wonderful wife and four great kids. I earned my masters degree in public administration and have stayed employed in public service for most of my life.

There are a few reasons that I would like to be mayor: 1. I liked working for the city and I like my friends at the city. We thrived on getting things done and we had a great working relationship under Donna’s leadership. 2. Several people in Moab asked me to run for mayor. I have thought about it for two years and really didn’t know what I was going to do until it was time to sign the candidacy paper. 3. I have been taught, and I teach my children and others to always get up after being knocked down. I was knocked down and my way of getting up is to run for mayor, since all the other attempts of getting up did not work. 4. I believe that I can help improve Moab’s aged infrastructure at the lowest rates possible and do a good job serving the community.

At this time, I can’t afford to quit my job and lose my family’s health insurance, but I will dedicate as much time as possible to be available. In two years I will be eligible to retire and that should free up more of my time.

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important job responsibilities of the mayor?

Although the mayor does not have as much power and authority as many people think and as written in the Moab municipal code, the mayor is the leader of the city and has a great deal of persuasive and influential power. The mayor can lay out the vision and goals for the community during the city’s visioning process and come up with ideas to improve the community. The mayor can facilitate budget priorities. The mayor works with the leaders of other entities to get things done. The mayor approves city council agendas and conducts city council meetings and other meetings. The mayor also appoints city officials and people to serve in various capacities.

3. What unique skills and experience would you bring to the job of mayor?

My unique skills and experience have already been demonstrated at my work at the city and at the school district. I come up with good ideas and pursue them. I never give up on good things. How many amenities would the city not have if I gave in to opposition? If others come up with good ideas, I am just as happy to help push them forward, too.

4. What are some of the specific initiatives you would like to pursue as mayor?

I have focused on improving Moab’s infrastructure. It is something that is desperately needed, and it is something I feel confident in getting done.

5. What do you consider to be the top two or three issues affecting Moab residents and what actions would you take to help resolve those issues?

Affordability: After working a full-time job and five part-time jobs last year, I kind of get what financial struggles some people go through to afford living here. Good employment reduces stress. I can do my best to keep city costs as low as possible and promote economic development and other things to raise wages. I would also promote the recommendations of the Interlocal Housing Task Force listed on page 91 of the 2017 Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan to help with Moab’s affordable housing problems.

Transparency, accountability and sustainability are also important things to be aware of in anything we do.

Happiness: Although this is not an issue, I think this is what we all want. We all should be grateful for living in such a beautiful place that has so many recreational things to do. We have clean air. The whole world wants to be here, and we are the lucky ones to actually be here! We have a thriving and vibrant community and Moab has some of the most caring people in the world.

6. What do you believe are the most serious problems the city as a government entity is facing, and how would you approach solving them?

The most expensive and serious problem is replacing an aging water and sewer system and possibly installing a new water tank. Road maintenance and installing more sidewalks are also needed. I would prioritize and budget for the improvements. The city will need financial help from the Utah Division of Drinking Water, Water Quality, and possibly USDA Rural Development and the Community Impact Board. The more the city does, the better the deals the city will get. However, we can only do what we are willing to afford. It is important to solicit public input when such expensive projects are considered.

7. How, if at all, do you envision working with other elected officials outside of Moab?

For our own good and common interest, we need to partner with elected officials from other communities and with state and federal representatives. Being in contact with key staff members of grant-giving entities is also important. Those contacts have added strength to Moab under Dave Sakrison’s leadership as our mayor. Dave’s contacts were extremely valuable to the city. He serves on several boards, was president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns and volunteers to serve in more things than most people know. Doing just a portion of what Dave is doing would be a good accomplishment for any future mayor.

8. What ideas do you have for working to diversify Moab’s economy?

We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, so we need to work with the county to develop or recruit more manufacturing and other jobs to the area. We need to be open to new ideas and innovations. Developing the Utah State University campus and attracting more enrollment to the school should strengthen the city’s diversity and resiliency. Being cooperative and helpful with our business entrepreneurs that are expanding and already doing great things is important.

9. How do you envision your role as mayor in terms of interacting with residents, visitors, city staff, the Moab City Council, and county government?

With residents, my role is to address their concerns and return messages as soon as possible. My role with visitors is to be as welcoming as possible. With city staff, it is to get to know all of them, talk with them and listen to their ideas. My role with the city council is to get along with them, set up processes to get things done, and facilitate meetings. With county officials, the role is to work together to get things done that benefit the community. My door is open and anyone can give me a call. We all need each other for everyone’s benefit.

10. Why should voters choose you to be Moab’s next mayor?

Because I think I can do the greatest amount of good for this community. Team work with integrity is my slogan.

Gerald Roy Reed


1. Tell us about yourself and why you want to be Mayor of Moab? Also, explain how much time you plan to devote to the job.

My name is Gerald Reed, most know me as Roy because I go by my middle name. This was a tradition my grandmother started and my father passed on — they went by their middle names too. My family moved to the area back in the winter of 1989. I have lived here since I was 6 years old, and graduated from Grand County High School in 2001. I was raised in a home of modest means, but the one thing that we were never lacking in was love and respect. We were raised to have a strong work ethic and make sure to double- and triple-check things so they were done right the first time — because sometimes there wasn’t any means to do a retake on a project. I’m a single father and have happily lived with my children here in town. Self-defense and self-improvement have been longtime pursuits of mine. My chosen profession is as a martial/healing/internal arts instructor. I would devote as much time as I could to the office of mayor — and still have some sort of a home life to look forward to. The position needs strengthened, and the only way that happens is if someone gives it the time, attention and energy that it deserves.

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important job responsibilities of the mayor?

Honestly, the way I see it, the most important duties of the mayor have been handed off to the city manager, running the city themselves is what makes a mayor the strong leader they are supposed to be, not how well they chair a council meeting (which can be a bonus but not a crucial duty to do perfectly.) A leader that really cares about the city they represent knows everything about their city and is hands-on in all the decision making — they have last-say and are involved in more than just deciding on and voting for a budget and attending meetings. They involve the community at large in everything, making sure there is plenty of open discussion over matters that impact the town, but are also willing to make tough on-the-spot decisions when needed. A mayor should personally check in on all the businesses, residents and of course the different branches of the city, and be involved and accessible to all aspects of the town.

3. What unique skills and experience would you bring to the job of mayor?

Because of my training I’m able to keep calm and focus under pressure, and view things objectively from both sides before making a decision. I’m willing to work at and improve decisions already made and settled on (when the set solution reveals a setback or downside.) I’ve got the strong will to make tough decisions, the initiative to get things done, wisdom to question and dig into a situation deeper — and I know people. Community is best served with communication, open discussion and full disclosure. When closed-door sessions are being held, the people question the intent and motives of those that seem to want to keep things hidden and secret. Currently serving on the School County Council at H.M.K. and other pursuits has taught me that straight-forwardness, being open and having the willingness to question what is presented make being part of, and your time on, a council more fulfilling – it takes cooperation when dealing with the other members to really get things done.

4. What are some of the specific initiatives you would like to pursue as mayor?

The No-Empty-Housing Initiative is something I’d like to see in the works, effectively curtailing out-of-towners from letting their rarely-visited vacation homes here in city limits remain empty when housing is in such demand by those whom would actually reside here and be an asset to the community. If a residence isn’t provably occupied for at least half the year, then a regulation can be put in place that would encourage renting a vacant home so the home is occupied for half the year or more. If that criteria isn’t kept, the landowner could face repercussions (such as fines/tax increases/etc., depending on how severely unoccupied the residence remains throughout the year.) No, I don’t believe in punishment for owning property — I believe you should be discouraged from being part of the burden on Moab’s housing problem. Also, I’d like to initiate a minimum wage increase like many of the other cities and towns in the country have addressed, but more importantly enact restrictions on how much may be charged for renting out bedrooms and, of course, full units, as many cities and towns that faced the same problem have done successfully for their communities.

5. What do you consider to be the top two or three issues affecting Moab residents and what actions would you take to help resolve those issues?

The fallout from the previous city manager, sewer treatment issues, wages and housing are all right at the top of my concern list and are considered high priorities, although making sure public servants are held to the same or higher standards than the public themselves are held to is something I’m sure needs addressed and continued to be reinforced. There should not, and cannot, be a double standard for the two — that causes disparity and discontent which could be easily avoided by all involved. Our law enforcement and other authorities should always hold themselves, and be held to, a higher standard than that which all other citizens are expected to keep.

6. What do you believe are the most serious problems the city as a government entity is facing, and how would you approach solving them?

Moab has been “Tourist First” for too long. The tourism industry has gotten out of hand, which has also compounded the traffic and other tourism-related problems. As it stands, we have a solid tourism industry and I don’t believe it needs reduced, just managed better. The housing situation isn’t going to get fixed just because a website is created to show all the current data Moab city has collected about the housing crisis — nor is building $400,000 (and higher cost) homes or constructing apartments that charge $400 or more per bedroom. Living costs for the average Moabite need a nudge in the right direction — that means expenses across the board need to get more affordable. And that is going to be the key to really improving things around here.

7. How, if at all, do you envision working with other elected officials outside of Moab?

The rest of the state, and the country for that matter, isn’t going to disappear, so of course I’m open to cooperation between officials on all levels. Regardless of whether that means dealing with the governor, BLM, the Park Service, or other offices, departments and the like, keeping relations open couldn’t hurt anything. Standing up for what is right can sometimes mean being at odds with others, that goes without saying, but that doesn’t mean it will happen often nor that I can’t talk them around to my reasoning and going along with what I want to accomplish. I’ve got faith that it doesn’t take much to have everyone doing the right thing when each person is shown they’ve nothing to lose for the undertaking. When the occasional impasse happens, an individual needs to remember to make the best of it and keep the understanding that there are going to be more chances, ways and methods to get things done.

8. What ideas do you have for working to diversify Moab’s economy?

Encouraging our own growing technology industry, with it’s high-paying standards, would be one way to diversify the local economy. Another is to cultivate the education industry, which shouldn’t be a difficult prospect with the planned expansion of the college. Manufacturing that doesn’t leave a negative impact on the environment nor the community is something to consider. Moab could make a big name for itself in continuing its promise to be number-one in green energy by expanding its efforts into the solar and wind energy industry. I’m sure that polluting methods of producing energy have never been the best way, and the energy industry needs a nudge in the right direction. It wouldn’t be hard to find at least partial funding through grants and the like for an energy initiative providing solar installation to participating businesses and residences that wanted to reduce their utility costs — as long as the excess were to be fed into the electric grid. (Although this might not be a popular idea with the utility companies, I’m willing to live with that to do the right thing and move the world into the standard of making decisions for the right reasons, not profit.)

9. How do you envision your role as mayor in terms of interacting with residents, visitors, city staff, the Moab City Council, and county government?

I’m already doing what I plan, only on a much smaller scale than I would when mayor. I give my time, effort and consideration to the community through volunteer work. I’m going to be involved in running the city government in a hands-on way (getting personally involved with all aspects, including the sewer plant, and interacting with all the staff), even if that sort of thing isn’t the current standard. Relating with the rest of the town goes without saying — I’m not just going to sit back and be ignorant of issues and problems that crop up for individuals, households and businesses. I may not be able to resolve everyone’s problems, but I’ll certainly make the attempt, even when it’s not exactly my personal responsibility. Cooperation with the council goes without saying, and of course a relationship needs built and maintained with the county. As for those that come to Moab for whatever reason, they’ll be made to feel welcome.

10. Why should voters choose you to be Moab’s next mayor?

I’m not doing this for myself — my running for office has nothing to do with prestige nor involves any sort of personal gain. The city and especially mayor’s office has a lot on its plate and, for this election, comes with many problems to solve. The pay involved currently with the position isn’t nearly enough compensation for as many hours as I plan to devote to this job, but that means little to me — so, with that said, it shows I’m not someone interested in doing this for the pay. I want to make a difference, for the better and that’s the greatest gift I could give to the community. Anyone can learn the job, but not everyone is capable of true charity and doing what’s right — and of course, going above and beyond to serve others.


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