With almost three months to go until local voters cast their primary election ballots, the Moab Sun News is profiling the 13 candidates who are running for four seats on the Grand County Council.
Each candidate will be invited to submit more detailed statements about themselves and why they are running, and the Moab Sun News plans to publish their responses ahead of the county’s primary on Tuesday, June 28.
Sarah Sidwell and Curtis Wells are running for the at-large seat that Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson currently occupies. Jackson is not seeking re-election, and a third candidate, Barbara Hicks, told the Moab Sun News that she is planning to withdraw from the race.
Sidwell is a member of the Moab Area Travel Council Advisory Board; she also serves on the Grand County High School Community Council.
As a longtime resident who grew up in the community, she said that the issue of affordable housing is one of her top concerns.
The issue hit home several years ago, when her parents sold their $30,000 house for $200,000. Today, even though Sidwell herself is a salaried employee and sales director at Tag-A-Long Expeditions, she said she can’t afford to buy her own home.
While she works for the tourism industry, she said she believes that the community needs to diversify its economic base beyond that sector. There isn’t any one solution to the county’s economic diversification challenges, she said, but the fiber-optic infrastructure is certainly in place to bring high-tech and dot-com businesses to Moab.
“Let’s look at other areas that we can expand to,” she said.
Wells is a sixth-generation Grand County resident and entrepreneur whose grandfather and mentor, Jimmy Walker, served on the Grand County Commission in the 1980s.
As a child, he worked in his mother’s restaurant on Main Street and started his professional career doing field work for the natural resources industry at the age of 17. He’s since ventured into innovative technologies, business development and marketing. He’s also a small business owner who’s involved in commercial real estate, and he said he believes he’s got a well-rounded economic background and a proven track record of building positive communication and political bridges in Grand County.
As a candidate for county council, he said he wants to bring collective problem-solving, leadership and an open mind to the council.
“I’m going to work tirelessly to find common ground and directly address the arid and divisive political culture that’s plagued this county for three decades,” he said. “Our economy and our people are diverse; nonetheless, I want the taxpayers to be proud and pleased with the productivity and performance of their local government.“
Three candidates are running for the seat that outgoing council member Ken Ballantyne currently holds: Evan Clapper, Kathy Crane and Mary Frothingham.
Clapper, who just celebrated his 10th year in Moab, is the operations manager at Moab Cliffs and Canyons.
In addition to a 15-plus-year career in the outdoor recreation industry, Clapper previously served as the BEACON Afterschool Program’s site coordinator at Grand County Middle School. Like many residents, he’s worked a variety of jobs around town, serving as everything from Sorrel River Ranch’s program director in charge of recreation and leisure programs, to the head of a saw crew that removed invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees in the area.
If elected, his top three areas of focus include rezoning issues, the use of taxpayer funds and public lands management.
Clapper said he thinks his ability to keep a level head under pressure is one of the strongest traits that he would bring to the job. He said he also tries not to take things personally, and he prides himself for his ability to hear what others have to say.
“You’ve got two ears and one mouth,” he said. “You should be listening as much as you’re talking.”
Crane, a kindergarten teacher at Helen M. Knight Elementary, has published more than a dozen teacher resource books, and she owns Kindergarten Kiosk, a small business that specializes in educational resources for young children.
As a teacher, author, businesswoman, wife, mother and grandmother, Crane said she believes that she would bring a unique perspective to the county council.
“My desire is to represent the many voices of our county, as we work together to make Grand County a great place to live, work, prosper and play,” Crane said. “My motto is creating prosperity for the future through respect, collaboration and cooperation.”
Frothingham has worked as a registered nurse at Moab Regional Hospital for about five years.
She previously served as a grant writer for the Grand County School District, where she implemented a grant program that promoted educational activities for Native American students; she also managed a tobacco prevention grant program.
Since she moved to Moab in 1997, Frothingham worked for the Youth Conservation Corps at the National Park Service’s Southeast Utah group parks. She also coordinated the BEACON Afterschool Program at Grand County Middle School, and she led the Moab Community Action Council, among many other jobs.
Wherever she’s worked, she said that much of her time was devoted to helping families and at-risk kids. She said she hopes to make the same kinds of decisions that support residents’ needs at the countywide level.
“The big one for me is how we can support a healthy community, especially with a lot of the change and growth we’ve had,” she said.
Five candidates are running for the seat that Grand County Council chair Elizabeth Tubbs holds: Greg Halliday, Michael Peck, Tubbs, Jeanne von Zastrow and Heather Jo White.
Halliday, who manages the Town of Castle Valley’s road department, moved to Grand County with his wife more than 10 years ago, after he retired from the U.S. military.
In the years before his retirement, the Murray native served as a sergeant major in the U.S. Army, as well as the senior assistant adviser to the U.S. Army Surgeon and the U.S. Army National Guard Surgeon.
He said he’s running for office without any agendas or preconceived notions, hoping that other communities in the county will have a voice on the council.
“I just want to have some representation in the county from Castle Valley and from outside the Moab area, because I don’t think we’ve had it in a long time,” he said.
Communication with others is key, he said, and if he’s elected, he vowed to listen to other people’s viewpoints.
“Most people just want to have somebody listen to them,” he said. “They want to be able to express their opinions.”
Peck, who has lived in Castle Valley for 13 years, is a trained mediator, negotiator and aribtrator who has essentially retired from that profession.
He currently helps roast coffee at Moab Coffee Roasters on a part-time basis, but he hopes to put his experiences and training as a mediator to good use on the council.
“My training is in listening to people – listening to both sides, and trying to be a peacemaker,” he said.
He said he believes that council members can work together on many issues, instead of fighting over them.
If he’s elected, he said he will work to protect what he calls Moab’s “bread and butter” — Grand County’s unique public lands.
“I think that we have a natural gift given to us here, with our red-rock beauty,” he said. “All we need to do is (preserve it).”
With many service-industry workers in need of “decent living conditions,” Peck said he hopes that county efforts to resolve the community’s affordable housing woes will lead to concrete action.
Tubbs said that her time to date on the council has been a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, experience.
She said that there’s a learning curve to the job, but after more than three years on the council, she believes that she can contribute even more to the county.
As a community leader, she said she’s mindful of the need to model civility, and to be respectful of people with different opinions.
Moving forward, she said she hopes to continue her work on affordable housing issues, while taking a closer look at the community’s infrastructure-related needs that are under increasing visitor-related strains.
“Even if our permanent resident population isn’t much bigger than it was five or 10 years ago, our tourism population is much, much bigger,” she said. “That’s something that hasn’t been recognized by people outside (the community).”
In addition to focusing on potential upgrades to water and sewer services, as well as roads and law enforcement services, Tubbs said she hopes to see an expanded Utah State University-Moab campus bring more economic stability to the community.
Jeanne von Zastrow
Von Zastrow’s lengthy career in the private and public sectors includes a stint as a political appointee in former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, where she worked as a confidential assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
However, the Blanding native emphasizes that she’s running as a progressive candidate whose top priorities include affordable housing, protecting the county’s public lands and strengthening multicultural connections in the community.
For the last 30 years, she worked for the Food Marketing Institute, and as its senior director of sustainability and industry relations, she helped launch the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.
Although her job frequently took her around the world, she has lived in the Moab area for more than two decades, and she said she now has the time to give something back to the community.
“For the last 22 years, I’ve been working on the global or national stage, and now, I want to work for our community,” she said.
Heather Jo White
White was born and raised on a working ranch in Colorado; she has lived in Moab for 13 years.
She graduated Cum Laude with a B.S. in Accounting and Business Administration.
She said she’s excited for the opportunity to serve her community.
“I’m confident that my strong work ethic and dedication will bring great benefit to the taxpayers and Grand County,” she said.
As an active outdoorswoman, White said she enjoys hiking and participating in local running events.
“I have a strong appreciation for the land and I believe we must manage it wisely to ensure its availability for future generations,” she said.
In addition to incumbent Rory Paxman, two other candidates are running for the District #5 seat on the council: Jed Lawley and Rachel Nelson.
Lawley, who was born and raised in Moab, is a longtime technician with Emery Telcom; he previously worked for Precis Communications.
As he goes from one customer’s home to the next, he strikes up conversations with residents, and over the years, he said he’s gotten to know people and hear about their concerns.
Lawley said he doesn’t identify with any political party across the board, adding that he sometimes agrees more with Republicans, and sometimes leans more toward the Democrats.
If he’s elected, he said he would work to find middle ground on the issues, given the diversity of political viewpoints in the community.
“If we can come to an agreement and find mutual agreement, it will be great,” he said.
Like many other candidates, Lawley identified affordable housing as a key issue; he said he’s also concerned about state efforts to fund a coal-shipping terminal in Oakland, California.
“Locally, there’s probably nothing that I can do about it, but I don’t think it’s the greatest idea,” he said.
Nelson, an adjunct professor in recreation resource management at Utah State University-Moab, grew up near Baltimore. But she moved out West to attend college and never looked back, she said.
She ultimately graduated with a Master’s in renewable natural resources, and when she first moved to Moab, she briefly conducted fish surveys for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources before she went on to work as a mountain bike guide.
Nelson said that although she isn’t a very “political person,” she believes she can work collaboratively with others to help Moab get through its growing pains.
“In the end, I don’t think that what we all want as a community is very different,” she said.
She also noted her background in the kinds of natural resource issues that council members often deal with.
As an adjunct professor, she invites people from different backgrounds to give presentations to her classes. She also talks about the human dimensions of natural resource issues, while focusing on the ideas of collaboration and consensus-building.
Paxman, the general manager of Canyonlands by Night and Day for the last 22 years, is running for his second term on the council.
He currently serves as the council’s liaison to the Moab Chamber of Commerce and the Grand County Noxious Weed Control Board, and he’s actively involved as the county’s representative on the Grand County Airport Board.
Along with other airport board members, he said he’s worked on steps to accommodate future growth at Canyonlands Field, including plans to upgrade the facility’s runway. He said he’s hopeful that improvements to the facility could bring SkyWest Airlines – or other companies that operate larger planes – to Moab.
As a county council member, Paxman said he’d like to reform the county’s land-use code in order to facilitate the development of more affordable housing in the community.
“I think that’s where a lot of our problems are – with the land-use code,” he said.
Generally speaking, he said, council members need to be working for the citizens – not the special interest groups, or themselves.
13 people running for four seats on county council