Sunday, May 31, 2020

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Moab, UT

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    First look at the county council candidates

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    Carter Pape
    Carter Papehttp://moabtimes.awebstudio.com/author/carter-pape/
    Reporter Carter Pape covers news out of the Grand County Council Chambers, including housing, tourism, crime, and more.

    Opponents Stocks, Walker answer three questions

    Photo by Carter Pape

    The Times-Independent reached out to each of the four candidates running for the two challenged seats on the Grand County Council. The newspaper did not receive immediate replies from incumbent District 4 Council Member Greg Halliday or his opponent, Trisha Hedin, regarding their campaigns. Hedin works in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University-Moab.

    Attorney Stephen Stocks and Grand County Planning Commissioner Kevin Walker are competing for the open At Large seat currently held by Curtis Wells, who is not seeking re-election. Walker and Stocks each responded Wednesday to three questions.


    T-I: What are the top two issues the county currently faces that you would hope to address during your tenure?

    Walker: Clearly the impacts of COVID-19 (to our health, to the local economy, and to the county budget) are going to be a top issue for many months to come. Once things get back to normal, I think we need to put more effort into economic diversification. It’s impossible to predict when and what the next disruption will be, but no matter what it is, we will be better able to weather the storm if our local economy is more diverse.

    After tourism recovers from the current crisis, another top issue will be making sure that a healthy tourism economy does not negatively affect quality of life for residents. The current council has made good progress on this issue, but I think there is more we can do.

    Stocks: These challenges are addressing the community and economic impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning from our current form of government to either the proposal created by the study committee or a three-man commission. Grand County’s budget will be tightened. We need to look critically at ways to cut costs and address sources of income. The November election results are the first step in our transition plan. Regardless of the change, we will need to restructure, and organize how the government will function. This will require careful consideration of the input from all community members.

    T-I: What makes you qualified to represent Grand County residents on the county council?

    Stocks: I am qualified to represent this community. Both professionally and as a community member, I have worn many different hats. These includes living here as member of this community since childhood; opening my own law practice serving Grand and San Juan counties; and, acting as the chair of the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee. While serving as chair, I worked well with individuals from diverse political persuasions. I frequently work with individuals in the community during my work as an attorney and as a citizen. This flexibility is critical represent Grand County’s unique population.

    Walker: I’ve been actively involved with local Grand County issues for the past 30 years. I’ve been on the [Grand] County Planning Commission for the past couple of years. I follow county issues closely and frequently attend County Council meetings, so I already have some familiarity with the inner workings of the county. Grand County is my home, and I care deeply about making sure that Grand County continues to be a great place to live.

    T-I: What are your thoughts on the reopening process that Grand County is currently undergoing courtesy of the health order from the Southeast Utah Health Department? Is the county reopening too fast? Too slow? Are enough people wearing masks and doing social distancing?

    Walker: I’m glad that the local health department and hospital are playing leading roles in guiding our response. Compared to other rural Utah counties, our heavy reliance on tourism magnifies both the health and economic aspects of the crisis. We are more likely to become a virus hot spot if visitation increases, and we suffer more economically while people are unwilling to travel. It’s a bad dilemma with no easy answers.

    Stocks: COVID-19’s impact has been monumental. Especially in Moab. Many people in our community do not qualify for unemployment, or stimulus checks. This leaves them with no assistance from the government, many are desperate for work. The current order dictates strict measures to address reopening. If proper precautions are taken, I trust the decision to reopen the economy. Now, it is important that individuals take steps to mitigate spreading the virus. Wash your hands regularly. If you are sick, please stay home and contact the hospital if you are experiencing symptoms. Stay healthy.

    The Times-Independent will provide ongoing coverage on the races for the Grand County Council and will publish responses from Hedin’s and Halliday’s campaigns as it receives them.

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