Please introduce yourself. Where did you go to school, what do you do for a living and how long have you lived in Grand County?
Curtis Wells, At-Large District: I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve worked in the mineral acquisition sector since I was 17. I’ve been involved in numerous projects in southeastern Utah and I’m continually active in that space. I recently spent four years living in Salt Lake City forwarding my interests and building a diverse network of private and public sector contacts. I worked directly with state and federal agencies and representatives. I’ve since opened my own consulting firm here in Moab, specializing in project development/ management. I’ve also recently invested in commercial real estate in Moab and enjoy the day-to-day work involved with managing that business. I’m a sixth-generation Moab resident. I went to public school in Colorado where I was raised on a farm in Mack. My mother moved my three brothers back to Moab in 1992. During my childhood, I spent my time out of school in Moab. I moved to Moab full time after high school graduation and have spent most of my time here since. I also married my Moab childhood crush.
Sarah Sidwell, At-Large District: I have lived in Moab off and on all of my life. I am a graduate of Grand County High School, and my youngest will graduate, Class of 2017. I have done everything from waiting tables, to working retail and cleaning rooms and currently do marketing and guiding at Tag-A-Long Expeditions.
Greg Halliday, District 4: I am a native Utahn and a U.S. Army veteran with 34 years of service. I have lived in Grand County since 2005 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New York.
Elizabeth Tubbs, District 4: I am currently a member of the Grand County Council, where I am serving my second year as the chair. My husband and I chose to move to this community on a full-time basis after visiting here regularly for about 15 years. We made this our permanent and only home about 11 years ago. My husband spent 25 in a career with the federal government, which gave us a chance to live in many different parts of the country as well as overseas, but this is the place that feels like home. I attended high school, college and post-graduate education in Chicago and hold a B.A. in Education from Northeastern Illinois University and an M.S. in Rehabilitation Services Administration from DePaul University. My husband, David and I, met and married in Chicago 49 years ago.
Heather Jo White, District 4: I graduated from Cedaredge High School in Colorado, where I went on and received my B.S. in Accounting and Business Administration from Colorado Mesa University (formally Mesa State College). I currently work at the Moab UMTRA Project for Nielson Construction as the Tailings Pile Supervisor. I am married to my best friend, fifth-generation Moab resident Jerry White, and have lived here in Moab for 13 years.
Jed Lawley, District 5: I am Jedidiah John Lawley, candidate for the Grand County Council District 5 seat. I was born in the old hospital in 1981 to Doug Lawley and Barbie Groff. Like most kids, my formative years were occupied with family, church and school. I am married and the father of three. I work as a technician for Emery Telcom. My job entails building out and maintaining a fiber optics and HFC network. My position puts me in daily contact with our residents and the owners and leaders of our business community. My wife, Mikala, works at a locally owned insurance company. Two of my children, Hailey and Isaac, attend GCHS and my youngest, Brooklyn, is enrolled at HMK.
Rachel Nelson, District 5: I attended high school in Columbia, Maryland, and then moved out West to get a B.S. at UC Davis. I received an M.S. at the University of Arizona in 2005. Since then, I have been living and working in Moab. I started off as a mountain bike guide for Escape Adventures and now I teach as an adjunct professor in the Recreation Resource Management Department at USU-Moab.
Describe any previous public service or community involvement.
Curtis Wells: I’ve been active with the Moab City Recreation sports programs. I’m very passionate about sports and I love to play and coach. I strive to teach kids how to play the sport the right way and how that translates in life. The kids in our community are very impressionable and they are our future. Quality coaching to me is a wise investment in our community and it makes me feel like I’m giving back. I’m also the chairman of the Grand County Republican Party. In 2013, I grew disappointed in a very dysfunctional and frankly, absent Republican Party. I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done in in the last year to rebuild the party.
Sarah Sidwell: I held positions on various boards and currently serve on the Moab Area Travel Council and the High School Community Council, volunteer for several local events and venues, and spent a couple of years lobbying in Washington on behalf of Colorado River recreation and ecological protection. Community theatre is my passion and where most will recognize me from.
Greg Halliday: I am a qualified member of the Castle Valley Fire Department and have served on the Castle Valley Planning and Land Use Commission; and the Hazard Mitigation Committee. I was the Castle Valley Road Manager for six years.
Heather Jo White: I have volunteered for the Rodeo Committee, and support local outdoorsman events such as the Rocky Mountain Elks Foundation banquets, Mule Deer banquets, and the turkey banquets. I have also participated in the local running events held in Moab. I am also involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Jed Lawley: I’ve always been involved in the community, but this is my introduction to a formal position.
Rachel Nelson: I am currently on the board of Friends of Indian Creek, a local nonprofit climbing advocacy group where I work with local land managers to create educational materials for climbers. I also volunteer with the Moab Valley Multicultural Center at their annual events. I attend numerous community activities and events every year with my family – chances are you have seen me out and about with my two small girls in tow behind my bike.
What are your main concerns regarding Grand County’s future?
Curtis Wells: Where to start? We have a political class that’s proven more loyal to the same 100-ish political activists and nonprofits than to their own county and constituents. We have a strong appetite for nice amenities and meanwhile our infrastructure and our roads are in terrible shape. I do realize that the county council cannot direct the special service districts how to spend the money in our community. But the right hand clearly doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and/ or needing. We have created an environment where any economic development is severely discouraged and the working people are being hurt. We’re demonizing specific groups of tourists based on their demographic and subsequent choice of recreation. We’re terrifying our local business leaders with our anti-tourism rhetoric and we’ve created a bubble of non-sense in our community. Aside from Rory Paxman, we’ve got nonprofit managers, former teachers, former county employees and two former federal employees. While I appreciate their work, we are not going to tackle our challenges with a board whose makeup are extensions of the public sector. Government does a terrible job at most things, including fixing things that are broken. This is true all around us. On top of this, our county administrator cleared out a space in our county offices for an admitted socialist after his failed campaign for county clerk. Now, we’ve got an academic who clearly lacks understanding of the private sector engineering top-down government driven policies. These are all problems that stem from a complete lack of leadership in our county. There’s a lot of tiptoeing, and no clear direction from our council.
Sarah Sidwell: Economy: We need to diversify. We cannot continue to rely solely on tourism. Extraction is not the answer either; we went through that already and some of us remember. We need to look for other solutions. There are hundreds of industries that are suited to us, we have to woo them and encourage young entrepreneurs to invest in them here and not leave to make their living.
Housing: We cannot have a decent economy if people don’t have a place to live. Right now we are feeling the crunch with not enough employees to staff our restaurants, hotels, and stores. The schools are struggling to find teachers, the hospital is struggling to find staff, we cannot continue to function as a community if we don’t invest in the people who keep this town running.
Land Use: I am a motor-head environmentalist. My dad was a mechanic, arguably the best in town for a long time, and I grew up building rock crawlers and race cars. Now I drive J-Rigs through Cataract Canyon but prefer the peace and quiet of oars and paddles on the San Juan. I do not favor vehicle access to every place. We need to leave some to the quiet travelers to enjoy and give the wildlife some solitude.
Greg Halliday: That public lands remain public (no change in management). No to the Canadian tar sands road. Maintaining our quality of life. Affordable and appropriate housing. Manage our explosive growth.
Elizabeth Tubbs: Grand County is at crossroads. The changes are inevitable and we are fortunate to have a thriving tourism economy that supports businesses and services in our community. I believe it is critical that we take active steps to plan for the kind of community we hope to be. It is important to maintain the rural values that built this community while planning for the future with an eye to economic diversity and jobs that earn a living wage, development of affordable housing at every income level, infrastructure that serves the changing needs, health care for every age group and an education system that provides opportunity for our youth.
Heather Jo White: My main concerns regarding Grand County’s future are: 1) public lands issues; 2) affordable housing; 3) infrastructure; 4) tourism and economic growth.
Jed Lawley: Affordable housing and environmental impacts due to the sheer volume of tourism.
Rachel Nelson: Moab’s rapid growth has caught us with our pants down. We are trapped in a cycle of building to accommodate peak visitor use, then using the newly acquired Transient Room Tax money to over-advertise Moab, which in turn raises our peak visitor use – and the cycle goes on and on. In the meantime, the quality of life for the average Moab resident reached a tipping point and seemed to decline. Our streets are crowded and noisy, the stench of human waste wafts through some neighborhoods, there are help wanted signs on virtually every business, and everyone is competing with everyone else for an increasingly unaffordable and limited housing supply. I really do not think this is a good model for managing growth. I believe it is time for Moab to diversify beyond a recreation- and service-based economy. We need to educate and house our workforce, attract higher-paying, year-round industries to Moab, and plan for the inevitable growth. In short, we need to take a good look inward and support our community. It has been done before in this town, just take a look at the sponsors on the back of your kid’s T-ball shirt … I can tell you right now, Hilton Inc. isn’t on there.
What steps, if any, should the council take to address the potential impacts of special events in the county? In your opinion, are there any events that are having a negative impact on the county’s quality of life?
Curtis Wells: Sound management. That’s it. Some people view the OHV community as a detriment to their quality of life. I view our never-ending buffet of special interest-funded nonprofits and the social and economic control they seek to be severely detrimental to my liberty and quality of life.
Sarah Sidwell: A moratorium on granting permits to new special events from March to October would be a good place to start. Yes, there are some events that are a nuisance. And they impact different areas of the community differently. There is currently a huge uproar about the ATV/ UTV events because they are noisy and smelly. But, for some outfitters, the marathons closing state Routes 128 or 279 are annoying. Outfitters have learned to communicate our desires and needs with event organizers to mitigate delays and conflict.
We should always remember that, as annoying as these events can be, there is the possibility of a positive resolution to our frustrations. We should not kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Tourism and special events turned our economy around and, for better or for worse, we need to learn how to coexist at least until we have a more diversely prosperous city.
Greg Halliday: Tourism is the lifeblood of Grand County; events are a necessary part of that. However, events have costs, which should be borne by the participants. Events will obviously impact our quality of life. However, with good planning, the impacts can be mitigated.
Elizabeth Tubbs: The council is evaluating the impacts of various events on an ongoing basis. In recent years, it seems every event has grown immensely and this seems to be affecting the quality of life for some of our citizens. We are experiencing more noise, traffic congestion, long lines at our national parks, wait times at restaurants, parking issues everywhere, etc. Like most issues, I believe the entire community needs to be involved with finding solutions. We don’t want to inhibit tourism growth – after all, many of our citizens earn their living in the tourism industry. The council needs to review the codes we have in place and make changes as necessary, but more than that, we need to work with merchants; law enforcement; guiding companies and outfitters; lodging establishments; and our state and federal partners to work out better ways of accommodating the many visitors who come to enjoy the many activities our beautiful area has to offer.
Heather Jo White: Our county thrives on the special events that go on throughout the year. Grand County has many opportunities for everyone to enjoy; we just need to better manage how to handle the widespread popularity that seems to have overwhelmed our small community. Every special event is welcomed and supports Grand County economically. We cannot limit to a specific interest group to enjoy.
Jed Lawley: The county may have to look at impact fees to offset the additional costs the county incurs.
Rachel Nelson: I feel that many special events enrich the community through art, music, and competition. I was actually impressed with the management of the Jeep Safari this year. If there is a capacity or safety issue then we need to address that on a per-event basis and determine if we actually have enough hotel rooms, parking and EMS services. If not, can we set a limit on the number of participants? What if there is a quality of life issue? Recently, the appropriateness of sanctioned UTV rallies has been called into question. It is one of the top concerns of people I have spoken with in my district. My guess is most Moab visitors feel the same way as they try to have a peaceful patio dinner on Main Street during these events. Cooperation and planning can go a long way in managing these conflicts. Or, perhaps the community will decide the events do not enrich Moab for the majority of residents and visitors, and that is fine too.
Grand County recently made significant revisions to the county code to facilitate the development of more affordable housing. Do you support these changes, and are there any additional changes you’d like to enact to address the affordable housing issue?
Curtis Wells: We’ve converted into a resort community for better and for worse. Affordable housing is a problem. I’m in favor of the recent revisions to the code and will continue to support policies that remove red tape and offer incentives to developers to build affordable housing for working people.
Sarah Sidwell: There is not going to be an overnight solution and the steps the council has taken so far are in the right direction. One thing I would like to see is, instead of a “density bonus” make it mandatory that all new development include affordable housing. There are resort communities that have done similar things, and it has worked for them. How can we make it work for us? I would also like to make it easier for employers to offer workforce housing for seasonal employees.
Greg Halliday: Changes that facilitate additional housing are a positive step. However, apartments rented by the month are in short supply. Seasonal workers have few options regarding housing. County actions should address appropriate as well as affordable housing.
Elizabeth Tubbs: I support the revisions recently made to the Land Use Code (LUC). The council is working to identify areas where changes will support the development of affordable housing – in fact, we now have a definition for affordable housing in the LUC for the first time. We look to the General Plan approved in 2012 to guide us in the process to allow for more procedural efficiency while still offering ample opportunity for citizens to have input into the process. It has been gratifying to see so many of our citizens participate in the housing workshops the council and the planning commission have held on a twice-monthly basis. That is a testament to the importance of this issue for everyone in the community. We have also had regular attendance by several city council members. This is an issue that transcends jurisdictional boundaries.
Heather Jo White: I do support the revisions to the county code to help with the affordable housing issues in the county. I think that reducing the setbacks and percentage for open space will allow for reasonable density to help keep the costs down for builders and homeowners to protect low-income housing.
Jed Lawley: The affordable housing issue is here to stay and will continue to be with us for years to come.
Rachel Nelson: I definitely support the changes made by the county and other non-governmental organizations to provide housing opportunities for residents. I also believe in employing successful tactics that have worked in other communities, such as cooperative housing projects. I do not think, however, that we can rely solely on developers to solve our housing crisis. Their primary goal of profit is at odds with our primary goals of affordability and availability. We are really going to have to motivate on the issue of housing opportunities, or we will never close the gap.
Do you support efforts to build a highway or “enhanced transportation corridor” through the Book Cliffs?
Curtis Wells: Had we remained in the infrastructure coalition, we would have a seat at the table. Instead, we’re on the outside looking in. Yes, I support the Book Cliffs Highway. I do have some concerns but this corridor will enable other future projects and more economic development and tax revenue for our county. As long as we are intent on having new hospitals, schools, jails, baseball fields and recreation centers, we need to be intent on trying to operate in the black like the responsible, hardworking community that we are.
Sarah Sidwell: This is an issue I honestly cannot believe we are still debating. It was a bad idea decades ago and it’s still a bad idea. The hunters don’t want it because of the potential negative impact on the mule deer population. The four-wheel enthusiasts don’t want it because of the loss of recreation opportunities. And the environmentalists definitely don’t want it because of the obvious destruction to plant and animal life.
Greg Halliday: I do not support an improved road through the Book Cliffs for the benefit of the Canadian tar sands project. As we have seen, this type of project is extremely vulnerable to the volatile price of crude oil. It will be extremely expensive to build and maintain, with limited value for Grand County and will permanently scar the area.
Elizabeth Tubbs: I do not now and never have supported a highway or utility corridor in the Book Cliffs. I don‘t believe that benefits of any sort justify the expense of building – much less maintaining – such a project, or disturbing a pristine area with industrial development.
Heather Jo White: I am in support in studying the viable options to the Book Cliff Highway. I believe that the expansion is inevitable so as residents of Grand County, we need to have involvement in the planning process. I understand there are many concerns with the residents of our county in regards to wildlife impact, economic impact and environmental impact, that we cannot just turn our back.
Jed Lawley: At this time, I don’t see a need for this transportation corridor. It will be a bigger advantage to Uintah County than Grand County. This is some of the best elk habitat in Utah. That habitat is defined by its remoteness.
Rachel Nelson: Definitely not. I respect all life, human and otherwise. Our wildlands are getting fragmented more and more, and I do not see the justification in the building of the highway. It is shortsighted, and as a county and nation, we need support the move to cleaner (now mainstream) energy sources.
Should Utah’s congressional delegation make any further changes to the draft Public Lands Initiative?
Curtis Wells: Grand County’s plan as it currently sits brings a net import of state land and a net export of federal land. There are victories in this plan for everyone. I’m happy with it as long as the Antiquities Act exemption stands. Top-down public land designations are horrible on communities. Otherwise it’s a bad deal for the county and our middle and lower class. Environmental and recreation special interests carved this thing up like a Thanksgiving turkey. But that’s what happens in deals like this. We moved the ball forward as long as we secure a future for Utahns where national monuments can’t be dropped from the sky like atom bombs.
Sarah Sidwell: There was a report of some changes at the PLI meeting with the County Council on June 1. I would like to read the actual revised PLI (not on the utahpli.com site yet) before I comment on whether or not I agree with them and what I would like to see. From what I gathered from the meeting, however, yes, the delegation should continue to work on revisions.
Greg Halliday: I do not support the Public Lands Initiative. I have not seen sufficient justification to support the changes the state is proposing. Until additional information is forthcoming, I think that Grand County should opt out of the initiative.
Elizabeth Tubbs: Grand County submitted recommendations to the delegation for inclusion to the PLI. We have stood by those and I would hope to see all of these incorporated. The draft legislation did not reflect these recommendations and the council requested further amendments. When I have an opportunity to review the second draft legislation, I can be more specific. While I believe the process undertaken to develop the PLI was positive, I would not support the PLI in its current form.
Heather Jo White: I believe that the current draft represents a good and fair balance between conservation and economic development.
Jed Lawley: As proposed in its current state, it is heavily weighted in favor of the extraction industries and needs to address economies like Grand County’s that rely on protections for pristine lands.
Rachel Nelson: The concept of the initiative was good: collaborative planning for our public lands, stakeholder involvement – these are things I support. But somehow, after the initial process, the citizens and council’s input for Grand County were not included in draft. That is a failure of the process. I agreed with the County Council’s formal concerns regarding the draft. For starters, I oppose the Book Cliffs transportation corridor, and instead support the establishment of wilderness areas in the Book Cliffs. I support the continued co-management of the Sand Flats Recreation Area between the BLM and the county versus solely county control as written in the draft. And I cannot support the establishment of wilderness on the lower section of Porcupine Rim. Clearly, Rep. Bishop has not ridden the Whole Enchilada!
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
Curtis Wells: I collect books. Knowledge is power.
Sarah Sidwell: I am a costume designer. I have a whole closet in my house filled with crazy costumes and materials just waiting to be turned into outrageous wearable art. My daughter actually gets quite annoyed with me when I refuse to throw out things because of some silly idea I have or when we are out shopping and I have to ‘pop into a fabric or craft store for a second’. This creative outlet allows me to explore other ways of doing things that is advantageous in my professional life and I believe will help in my political career.
Greg Halliday: I re-enact the fur trade era 1800 to 1840 by attending area rendezvous. I build my own flintlock rifles, powder horns, possibles bags and leather clothing. My wife has made a number of excellent shirts and a great hunting coat.
Elizabeth Tubbs: Many people don’t know that I was born in Germany. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was 12 years old.
Heather Jo White: I think that one thing people don’t know about me is that I come from a ranching background. I think that many people think that I married into ranching, but I was born and raised on a working ranch where my family raised registered quarter horses and cattle.
Jed Lawley: I enjoy cooking!
Rachel Nelson: I have bicycled from California to the tip of Argentina on a crappy mountain bike.
What do you do for fun?
Curtis Wells: Lately, I’ve been very selfish with my time for my family. I’m a proud father to my 7-month-old daughter Elizabeth and a devoted husband to my beautiful wife Becky. My wife and I are very busy professionally and I try to spend every free moment with them.
Sarah Sidwell: Run for office! Also gardening, costuming, working on my vehicles, reading, researching, hiking, exploring, traveling, and of course, rafting!
Greg Halliday: I live in Castle Valley with my wife Susan and Rajee the dog. I walk with my dog six miles per day, build things, attend rendezvous and farm.
Elizabeth Tubbs: I enjoy hiking with my dogs; riding my bike; spending time in wild, quiet places; reading, gardening and most of all, spending time with friends and family.
Heather Jo White: I love spending time outdoors. I am an avid outdoorswoman who loves hiking, hunting and fishing. My favorite thing is spending time with family and friends. Whether it is spending time in the mountains or on the lake, as long as I am outside, I am happy.
Jed Lawley: I enjoy rafting the river, hiking the desert, hunting and fishing the high La Sals. Most of all, spending time with my family!
Rachel Nelson: Swim at the river beaches with my two kids, bike, climb, hike, camp … You name it, I love this place!
Grand County will be holding a mail-in primary election on Tuesday, June 28. The Moab Sun News asked each of the nine remaining candidates who are running for four seats on the Grand County Council to introduce themselves to county voters.
Previously declared candidates Kathy Crane, Mary Frothingham, Barbara Hicks, Michael Peck and Jeanne von Zastrow have formally withdrawn from their respective races. Candidate Evan Clapper, who is now running unopposed for the District 2 seat that outgoing council member Ken Ballantyne currently holds, declined to respond to the questions. Incumbent District 5 council member Rory Paxman did not submit any responses to the Sun News’ candidate questionnaire.
Only two candidates are running for the At-Large District seat that outgoing council member Lynn Jackson occupies: Sarah Sidwell and Curtis Wells. Both of those candidates will proceed on to the general election in November.
The primary election results will narrow the field of three candidates each in the District 4 and District 5 races down to two general election candidates for each district.
Grand County switched to a vote-by-mail election system in 2014, so voters will not be able to show up at traditional polling places on Election Day and cast their ballots in person.
The county’s election process differs from Moab City’s municipal elections for mayor and city council, which are held in odd-numbered years.
The county’s mail-in ballots were scheduled to be sent out no later than Tuesday, June 7. Since the ballots come directly from a printing company – not the Grand County Courthouse – they may take several days to arrive in voters’ mailboxes.
If you prefer not to mail your ballot, you can return it in person to the Grand County Clerk’s Office inside the Grand County Courthouse, 125 E. Center St., during regular business hours through Monday, June 27. You can also drop it off at the county clerk’s office on Tuesday, June 28, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
If you recently moved, your voter registration will not be automatically updated, even if you changed your address with the U.S. Postal Service, Utah Division of Motor Vehicles or other government entities. You must re-register to vote with your updated address, which you can do in person at the county clerk’s office, or online at elections.utah.gov.
The by-mail voter registration deadline has already passed, but you can still register online at least seven days before the June 28 election, or at least eight days before the election if you’re registering in person. After June 7, new voter registrations will be monitored periodically up to one week before the election.
For more information about the June 28 mail-in election, you can go to www.grandcountyutah.net/612/Elections, or you can contact the Grand County Clerk’s Office at 435-259-1321.