Karen Guzman-Newton recently asked herself and her family if Moab is the place they want to be for the next ten to fifteen years. When their answer was a resounding yes, she decided it was time to help guide the city as it grows by running for Moab City Council.
“We love living here. We’re cyclists. There’s no better riding anywhere else in the world,” she said, “It just felt like it was time to give back.”
As to the election, she said, “The most exciting thing was the people that came out to vote. You don’t care how people vote; you just hope that they vote. Your vote is your voice.”
As a mother of two teenagers, Guzman-Newton has experienced the intricacies of raising children in Moab. “There isn’t a big connection with our children and government.”
Guzman-Newton said she recognizes the work the city has put into the recreation center, and acknowledged programs like the mentorship program, but mentioned a lack of collaboration between them all. “I’d like to see the city be a facilitator for all the groups,” she said.
As a council member, Guzman-Newton plans to become very involved in mentorship programs. Mentioning the 26 children on the waitlist in the program, she expressed her priority in this area of need, saying, “Our children are a huge part of being a healthy, thriving city.”
She also said she realizes there will be a lot to learn once she joins the council. “I’ve never served in government,” she said. However, she said she hopes her experience running Poison Spider Bicycles will add something of value to city government.
“Being in the private market, you can see where things could run a little more efficiently. I hope to be able to see redundancies that could be done away with,” she said. “As a business owner you can see that sometimes when you have so many voices, nothing gets done.”
She has also seen firsthand how the tourism industry affects Moab and its growth. “Moab is a brand, and I feel like we’re sort of losing sight of that,” she said. “Our business is tourism, but there’s a point where we don’t want to keep growing. Our employees are spread too thin, they’re stressed, and we’re not able to provide the best customer service. At some point, enough is enough, and we need to come back to the people who live here.”
And that’s what she said she intends to do — listen to and advocate for her constituents. With an interest in reaching out to the population that voted against her in this election, she said, “A concern of mine in how this election went down is that we have such a divide nationally. It’s an impetus for me to have people feel like they’re actually heard locally.”
Guzman-Newton, like Mayor-elect Emily Niehaus, said she envisions a government in which citizens are engaged in policymaking and participate regularly in city council meetings. It’s a sentiment she feels was echoed by all the candidates in the race this fall. “It makes a huge difference when people actually show up,” she said.
For Guzman-Newton, the key is not avoiding growth. In fact, she said views it as inevitable. However, she wants the residents of Moab to be the ones guiding the growth of their city. She hopes to see the council, “fostering growth that is beneficial for those of us who live here, and those of us that come to enjoy this space, and allowing other services to grow.”
She told The Times-Independent she is advocating for the cultivation of local businesses and community services that benefit both residents and tourists. “Do we want more hotels? I haven’t heard anybody say that they do,” she said.
Now that the election is over, she is ready to get to work. And she hopes the people of Moab will step up and join in, saying, “Let’s determine what our vision is for Moab, and get everyone involved in that process, and then we can move forward.”