This year, on Nov. 6, local voters will elect Grand County Council members in four districts, and representatives for the Grand County Board of Education in three districts.
Grand County voters will also decide the fate of a local ballot initiative that could change the future of Grand County government.
A sample ballot and information about polling places and voting requirements are also included in this, our 2012 Times-Independent Voter Guide. Early voting – which can be done at the Grand County Clerk’s office – begins Oct. 23 and continues through Nov. 2. For additional information about voting, contact the Grand County Clerk’s office at 435-259-1321.
The Times-Independent encourages all area residents to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Cast your vote during the early voting period or on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Because there is a local ballot measure on the 2012 ballot, and that initiative, Ballot Proposition Initiative 1, has been the subject of much community discussion, The Times-Independent has invited a representative of the group that launched the ballot measure, and a representative of a local group that opposes the measure to provide their perspectives for our 2012 T-I Voter Guide.
The ballot measure reads:
Shall a study committee be appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in the form of government of Grand County.
Forming the study committee is the first step in exploring a possible change in the county’s form of government. If voters approve, a nominating committee is appointed to select the members of the study committee. The study committee then has up to one year to examine the issue and write a report making a recommendation. If a change is recommended, the county council must then decide whether to put the proposed new form of government before voters in the next even-numbered election year.
Under the options for county governments now allowed by Utah law, Grand County’s existing provisions for term limits, citizen recall of council members, and non-partisan elections would be eliminated because they are no longer allowed under state law.
Opponents of the ballot measure have argued that these provisions are important and should be preserved, along with the existing form of government.
Those supporting the ballot measure and, potentially, a change in the form of government, have pointed out that the existing form of government, which was grandfathered in by the Legislature when the new laws were created several years ago, is potentially riddled with problems because it is an anomaly within the state. Supporters have also said that the county would benefit from partisan elections for a variety of reasons.
Both perspectives are outlined here, in the T-I Voter Guide.
Ballot Proposition Initiative 1
by Jeramey McElhaney
Grand County Citizens for
This is Jeramey McElhaney, representing Grand County Citizens for Responsible Government, and I am urging you to vote “Yes” on the ballot proposition to form a study committee.
Thomas Jefferson once said: “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.”
Contrary to what the opposition would have you believe, this will not automatically change Grand County’s government to a three-member commission. It will, as its name implies, have a committee be appointed to first, study the current form of county government, and secondly, possibly make a recommendation to you, the voters, to approve a new form of county government. Either way, as is only right, you, the voters, will have the last word.
What kind of government will we change to? That is a great question, but not easily answered. It will not be what I want, or maybe not what your neighbor wants. This process will be open, honest, and will allow many opportunities for community involvement. Our ultimate goal is to have the best possible government for our county.
Because of certain limitations to our current form of government, Grand County is at a disadvantage to the 28 other counties in the state. Unfortunately, I do not have the space to list all of them, but one example is the ability to replace an elected official who is unable to complete his or her term. Right now we have no way to do this under state law.
The strongest possible argument for approving the study committee is this: Government exists only with the consent of the governed. When our country was founded, we formed a system of government that had never existed in the history of mankind. We put all the power of government not in the hands of a ruler, or a king, but in the hands of the people themselves. What this means is our nation has a bottom-up power structure; with the absolute authority in our hands.
This gives us a great responsibility. Like an employer doing a job-performance review, we must occasionally review not only our elected officials, but the system itself. True freedom takes hard work and constant vigilance. Every time people of a city, county, state, or country have an opportunity to study their government, they cannot hesitate to take it.
I hope everyone will vote this November 6th, and I ask you to vote “Yes” on the ballot proposition.
by Chris Baird and Bob Greenberg
Committee to Preserve
Grand County Government
We urge you to vote against the ballot proposal to study changing our form of government. We, the voters of Grand County, enacted our current non-partisan, seven-member council under the Utah Constitution to provide a more accountable, more widely representative form of government. Although the Utah Legislature no longer allows counties to adopt this specific form, Grand County’s plan remains fully legal and a shining example of representative local government.
Under our current plan, the council can adopt policy to enact a council/manager or expanded commission government. The two forms of government not possible are the three-person commission and the elected manager/council form.
A three-person commission has already been shown to be deficient in representing the wide range of views and interests in the county, and another elected official will only add to the infighting that pervades county government across the state. Responding to public concern, the council has already initiated a process to overhaul and modernize the policies of the existing governing body.
The majority of Grand County’s voters are registered as independents or unaffiliated. Any change in our form of government would require that we return to partisan politics, with the political parties choosing who can run for office, and ideology instead of common sense setting the agenda. We don’t want to bring the disgraceful national partisan gridlock to Grand County.
Under our current form of government, we have seen a solid history of consensus and practical problem-solving in which the community’s needs have taken the front seat.
When public decisions are made in the full light of day, transparent and fully debated, the result is good government. Grand County’s government has efficiently served a wide variety of interests and respected the political diversity of the community.
A county’s plan for government is like a state’s, or our nation’s, constitution. Just as one wouldn’t wantonly attempt to change the constitution, we should be sure that there are very good reasons for initiating a process to change our plan and form of government.
As one political party is acting as the sponsor of this ballot initiative, we encourage the voters to carefully evaluate the motives for this measure and to not allow Grand County’s form of government to become a partisan tool.
Let’s not “fix” a system that isn’t broken. Vote “No” on the study ballot question.
Grand County Council - At Large
A. Lynn Jackson
I am running for the Grand County Council At-Large position based on my interest and desire to serve the citizens and communities of Grand County.
I believe in a balanced approach to resolving the issues we face in Grand County. Extremism on any issue is counterproductive. Intelligent and rationale people working cooperatively, with a capacity for reasonable compromise, can usually find solutions to tough problems.
Like most Grand County citizens, I believe we need a diversified, robust, and sustainable economy, utilizing all the resources available to us. This would include opportunities for our citizens to earn the wages necessary to buy homes and raise families. It would include utilizing additional revenue streams available to us for essential county services such as health care, education, fire, police and roads. We cannot continue to rely on increasing property taxes to pay for government services brought upon us by our visitors. We need to wisely take advantage of the full array of natural resources we have within our county, which can supplement our primary tourism and recreation industry.
My family, with wife Kathryn and daughters Jennifer, Andrea and Lindsey, arrived in Moab in 1982. Lifelong residents of Utah, we soon realized Moab was where we wanted to put down our roots. I worked for and retired from the Bureau of Land Management in 2010 after 32 years of public service in southeast Utah, starting as a geologist and finishing as a manager. My time here and work experience has given me an in-depth knowledge of Grand County’s’ needs, issues, resources, and challenges.
Grand County is a unique island of cultural and social diversity within the greater confines of rural Utah, with unsurpassed natural beauty, a passionate and informed population, and a remarkable array of resources. I am a strong believer in multiple uses of our surrounding public lands, and clearly recognize that livelihoods and the future of Grand County are to a great degree dependent on the prudent use of federal lands that compose nearly 75 percent of Grand County. I believe my experience as a former federal land manager in southeast Utah will provide an enhanced ability for our county government to work, perhaps more effectively, with federal land managers to chart the future of Grand County and its residents.
Although I find myself running unopposed for the at-large position, I would nonetheless appreciate your vote and am excited to work with all parties, on all sides of the issues, to address the challenges we face together in Grand County.
Grand County Council - District 2
I am running for re-election to the Grand County Council because I want to continue to represent all of the citizens of this wonderful county. I am well aware that some of my decisions and votes have angered some. Be that as it may, I have never, nor will I ever, do that which is contrary to the best interests of the Grand County as a whole.
I want to see Grand County continue to succeed. I want to see that our children have the best opportunity for education and a livelihood. I want to see that our business community has the best opportunity to succeed and continue to provide jobs and opportunities in Grand County. I want to see that those who come to visit our beautiful area have the opportunity to see, feel and enjoy what we have here. I want to find a way to protect this beautiful area and still allow for economic growth. I may be naïve, but I honestly feel that we can have both a viable tourist industry and a responsible mineral extraction industry.
I am running for re-election because I truly love helping my fellow citizens. I thoroughly enjoy seeing, or being made aware of a need and working towards the successful resolution of that need. I have been involved with many of you on various boards and committees and I am deeply moved by your willingness to serve your fellow citizen. I want to personally thank all of you for your many hours of service to Grand County.
I want to thank each and every one of you who has supported me in the past. It means the world to me. I want to thank those who have not supported me – I have learned from you and I try very hard to represent you in the fairest manner.
Please take advantage of your sacred right and vote for the candidate of your choice on Nov. 6.
Editor’s note: All council candidates were invited to submit a candidate statement for this year’s voter guide. Joe Downard did not provide a statement.
Grand County Council - District 4
I am Elizabeth Tubbs, but most people call me “Liz.” I am running unopposed in Grand County Council District 4.
My husband and I have been coming to Grand County for about the last 20 years and, after living in many other parts of this country and a couple of times overseas, we decided to make this our permanent home about five years ago. Although we are both “retired” from our former employment, we have both become involved in various things in the community. We enjoy living here and are very interested in contributing to the community in a way that helps to maintain its strengths and in developing policies that might address problems and issues we are facing in the future.
I have had experience in the public and private sector in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. I have held management positions and worked where I had sole responsibility for completing work and projects in a timely, efficient manner. My work experience includes non-clinical positions in health care, education, social service and public health preparedness. My education is in special education and rehabilitation services administration. My background and education are well suited to benefit Grand County.
I have been volunteering at Red Rock Elementary School and now Helen M. Knight Elementary for the last several years and have also been involved in a committee dealing with Grand County Schools Facilities and Lands. Through this I have gained a good understanding of the issues facing our schools.
I have also attended most of the Grand County Council meetings as well as numerous other board and special district meetings in order to learn and become prepared to deal with the issues of today and the future here in this county. I believe we have a responsibility to protect the natural beauty and historical and cultural treasures of this area. At the same time, we also have a responsibility to develop areas that will provide jobs and a tax base that can support the members and services in the community.
Please vote on Nov. 6!
Grand County Council - District 5
I am running for Grand County Council because I care about our community and the prosperity and well-being of its residents.
I have lived here for over 20 years with my wife, Susie, own a small business, have volunteered for numerous local non-profit organizations, and currently serve on the Grand County Planning and Zoning Commission (chairman) and the winter search and rescue team.
My vision for our community includes a diverse and stable economy, clean water and air, harmonious mixed use of our amazing landscape, and housing that working people can afford. With the right leadership these are all attainable.
I believe that Grand County government has an important role to play in building a robust economy. Our world-class recreation, clean environment, and safe small-town atmosphere are essential to attracting and retaining new businesses, and I will work to maintain them. But these attributes are not unique to Moab. Potential new businesses and families seek more: specifically, exceptional schools and medical services. Although the school and hospital districts are independent of the county, I support them and will ensure accountability for any monies routed to these entities.
I believe that planning and development will both play an important part in Grand County’s future. I own a local architecture firm and have designed many local residential building and development projects. I have also served on the county planning commission for four years, and my peers elected me chairman of that commission for three straight terms.
I understand the process and value of planning, and the delays it can create. I support streamlining the development process while maintaining smart planning. I will work to guide new development close to Moab to increase housing for all and minimize the long-term costs of infrastructure to taxpayers. I will continue to work with the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah and other groups to provide safe and affordable housing with a minimum of bureaucracy.
Our local government must be responsive and accountable to all, with officeholders who behave with professionalism and integrity and cost-effectively provide those services needed to advance the health, safety and welfare of residents. I will work to uphold this ideal of government, and aim for consensus solutions that bring together the wisdom from many viewpoints.
I have a history of service, and I have the skills, knowledge and experience to provide effective leadership. I appreciate your vote on Nov. 6.
Rory Paxman, a long-time resident of Utah, fell in love with Moab as he spent his summers running up and down the river. In the early 1990s he knew that he wanted to make Grand County his permanent home and one day raise his family in this wonderful community.
His family has owned and operated a business in Moab since the 1970s, helping to bring visitors from around the world to visit the beautiful Moab area. With the experience of working in Moab’s unique economy for many years, Rory believes he knows what is right for Grand County and is willing to work very hard to keep the local government headed in the right direction.
Rory is an avid outdoorsman and loves being in the wilderness and would tell you he is a country boy at heart. In recent years he’s decided to put forth the effort he believes this county and area deserves. He belongs to the Utah Guides and Outfitters Board and loves the way businesses use the area in a responsible and respectful manner.
As a business and land owner he knows that keeping taxes low helps the community flourish. Tourism is Grand County’s economy, therefore Rory believes the area needs to continue to be a good steward of the land and tourism, to promote the area to continue showing off the amazing area we live in. Rory has a beautiful wife, Rachel, and four wonderful kids and is invested in this community. He wants Grand County to be a place everyone enjoys living in. He wants to make the local schools the best in Utah, and open opportunities for elderly people living here to better their lives. By creating a smaller government, listening and helping the people of Grand County, Rory hopes to lead us all into a better economy and better tomorrow.
Rory Paxman is the change we need and the voice we deserve.
Grand County Board of Education - District 2
My name is Melissa Byrd and I am a candidate for the Grand County School Board in District 2.
I was born and raised in Grand County. I graduated from Grand County High School. I attended the University of Utah and received my bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. After college, I moved back to Moab and married my husband, Ben. We have two kids who will soon be attending Grand County schools.
My husband and I own and operate a local construction company and I am also a stay-at-home mom. I am responsible for the bookkeeping for our company and home. I understand the importance of good fiscal planning and budgeting in both private business and the home.
Since graduating from college, I have worked as Moab City Deputy Recorder, Moab City Recreation Coordinator, a teacher’s assistant at Helen M. Knight Elementary School, and a job mentor for teens at Four Corners Behavioral Health. I have also volunteered as a high school softball coach, middle school volleyball coach and for other youth sports activities. These job experiences would help me be an active and contributing school board member.
As the Moab City Deputy Recorder I was in charge of accounts payable, worked with the city’s auditors, and familiarized myself with different government budgeting processes. In that position, I became knowledgeable about government budgets, policies and procedures. As the Moab City Recreation Coordinator I was responsible for the city recreation budget. I learned about departmental budgets and the process of working with other government agencies to make every tax dollar count.
I look forward to participating in the district and helping create a long-lasting educational environment for all students. If elected, I would bring my experiences with small business, government, and as a community member to the Grand County School Board. I would like to use my experiences to help the district become unified and successful for the best interest of the students, their families and our community. I respect and value education and I think academic achievement should be the top priority of our school district. I believe I represent many of the ideals of our community and will welcome input from all.
I would appreciate your vote.
Editor’s note: All school board candidates were invited to submit a candidate statement for this year’s voter guide. Stacey Downard did not provide a statement.
Grand County Board of Education - District 3
I have a great passion for education and meeting the needs of our students. There are students in our system who are and have been well served by our schools. However, there are many who have not and are not having their needs met by the Grand County School District.
Many students are unable to meet their potential due to factors beyond their control, e.g., poverty and other socio-economic factors. Many of our students are disadvantaged and at-risk. If we do not, as administrators, educators, parents and community members, face the challenge of improving our schools it will be our students who suffer the consequences. It is absolutely imperative that everyone “steps-up to the plate,” so all students will have the benefit of a brighter future in higher education or meaningful, well-paying work.
During the past few years under the current Grand County Board of Education’s supervision, our district has faced major difficulties, including the financial calamity and poor academic performance in our schools. The recent policies of our board have been reactionary. The board has had to react to a portion of funds not being properly accounted for at the district level. The board has had to react to students not performing academically at levels appropriate to their ages. Annual yearly progress reports have been sketchy.
These are just a few of the issues that our board has faced – after the fact. Their focus has been primarily on fixing the finances and less on meeting the priorities of our schools. There will always be the unexpected glitch; however, the state charges the board with providing oversight of the school district, and that includes more than fixing an issue that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. We must move away from reactionary policy making and move toward a proactive form of oversight. We need to be prepared to meet the challenges faced by our district resulting from the past, and we need to prepare for the certain uncertainties due to the economically difficult times we now face.
It’s about the kids! Let’s break through that great wall that is business-as-usual and do a better job.
Hello, my name is Jim Webster and I’m running for the District 3 seat for the Grand County Board of Education. I’ve served on the school board since 2005, and been Board President since January 2011. I’ve lived in Grand County since 1990 and own a home in Moab, where I live with my wife, Vicki.
Our children, now grown, attended schools in Grand County from kindergarten to graduation, graduated from college and have embarked on their own careers. Our kids were very well-served by our public schools, and I see school board service as my way of giving back to our schools and community. I’ll continue using my leadership and collaboration skills and my past experience on the board to help build on our district’s considerable successes. Some examples of my school-related leadership:
• Participated in and/or helped lead: school superintendent searches; a district-wide facilities assessment process, leading to the successful school bond; community/school district finance, budget and land/facilities committees; and the successful annexation of the San Juan County Spanish Valley residents into the Grand County School District;
• Helped lead the district through the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession;
• Have been a long-time member of Community/School Safety Committee; USU-Moab Education Center Advisory Board; Chamber of Commerce; GrandAM mentor;
• Am voting member (alternate) of statewide Joint Legislative Committee (which develops legislative priorities supporting Utah public schools);
• Have developed good working relationships with local and state leaders;
• Have a strong belief in bringing school, business, community and elected leaders to the table;
My priorities for this term of office, if elected, include:
• Maintaining our current success in Language Arts scores, and improving our math scores;
• Supporting the development of Professional Learning Communities (an educational management strategy) district-wide;
• Supporting implementation of the Utah Core Standards in our local schools;
• Maintaining and further developing our extra-curricular, after-school, music and arts programs;
• Continuing to rebuild and reinvigorate our schools after the Great Recession through efficient, strategic and effective use of our tax dollars and by seeking outside revenue sources and partnerships;
• Identifying challenges facing the school district in the near future, and how to responsibly address them;
• Ensuring that our students, school district and community take every advantage of opportunities presented by the growing presence of Utah State University in Moab.
I’d appreciate your vote on Nov. 6.
Grand County Board of Education - District 5
My name is Jeanette Kopell and I am running for Grand County School Board District 5.
I started as a volunteer mom when my oldest was in kindergarten seven years ago and have never left the school since then. I am now a teaching assistant for the Title 1 program that gives extra help for struggling readers. I love my job as a mom and as a teaching assistant at Helen M. Knight Elementary School.
Running for Grand County School Board seems to be a natural progression for me. I really think I would like to do my part to make the Grand County School District a better place to learn and work.
I came to Moab 32 years ago to teach at Grand County High. I planned on teaching one year, but ended up working for 31, first as a teacher and then high school counselor.
I have raised four children in Moab, all of whom graduated from Grand County High. In those 32 years, I have seen many changes in both the community and the school district. The decisions that the school district made affected me not only as an employee, but also as a parent and community member.
After retiring, I decided that I could continue to serve the students of the school district and the community by sitting on the school board. I have attended school board meetings and work sessions and am familiar with current school board issues. I have worked as a tutor at Helen M. Knight Elementary School and a mentor at the middle school and recognize the varying needs of the different schools. I have an understanding of school finance and believe in being fiscally responsible; I live within my means and I expect the school district to do the same.
I feel there needs to be open communication between the community and the school board, and that requires that both parties be involved in the dialogue. I will continue to work to make that happen.
Students are my priority. I will always advocate in their best interest. That means I will advocate for academic excellence while understanding the impact extra-curricular activities have on student growth.
The decisions I make will be based on providing the students of Grand County School District the best education that the community can afford. I have the experience and the history to be an effective school board member.