[Courtesy photo]

Although she didn’t actually move to Moab until 1984, Audrey Graham’s heart has been here since 1974, making this the 42nd year she’s considered this town her home.

As a 14-year-old, she visited Arches National Park with her family, and vowed to herself she would be back.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do what I need to do to live here,’” she said. Ten years later, she and her husband, Tim Graham, moved to their house on Murphy Lane, where they raised their family and remain today.

Like a lot of deceptively idyllic American picket-fence narratives, opened for closer inspection, Graham’s reveals a precious collection of sacrifice, commitment, heartbreak, victory and, above all, love.

“She has a huge heart, and when I think of her passion, that’s what I see,” said Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon, a friend of Graham’s for eight years. “She’s one of those people who will take action with the things that she cares about, and when I say she takes action, I mean she takes action.”

The profession Graham chose to make her life possible in this remote desert place was protection services for the National Park Service. She was attracted to the medical aspect of the job, and used her EMT certification to volunteer outside work hours as an EMT trainer and ambulance runner to Grand Junction, Colorado.

In 1998, she became aware of an “existential threat” that developers posed to the home she loved. For the first time, she took a powerful stand for the vision of Moab’s future that she shared with others in the community.

With the same determination and commitment she applies to everything she cares about, Graham gathered 200 signatures from citizens who agreed that the east rim overlooking Moab shouldn’t be rezoned to allow for clusters of five-story motel rooms. The rezone was denied, and the east rim remains untouched by human development.

A Grand County Council member for two four-year terms, from 2003 to 2011, Graham helped create the Cinema Court affordable housing development. She continues to contribute her experience and innovative ideas to realizing a long-term vision for healthy community development.

She became interested in housing issues after leaving the National Park Service for South East Early Intervention, where she works now with her second great love, babies. Working in homes with infants and babies to age 3 diagnosed with developmental difficulties from behavior disorders to autism, she realized the severity of the housing crisis in Moab.

“I couldn’t believe some of the places people had to live were in the United States,” she said.

Graham is aiming to address this issue through the nonprofit Moab Community Land Trust, which seeks to lease land in perpetuity for the dedicated purpose of building communities for people, including homes and other land uses that contribute to human well-being. She’s also a member of the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah’s board, continuing to discuss housing issues with city and county leaders.

“She does a lot of small things within the big picture that make a big difference,” Dillon said of her friend and colleague. “She’s a collaborator, and she’s willing to take risks.”

This profile was made possible by the generous support of Rocky Mountain Power.

This Week: Audrey Graham