1. Please introduce yourself. Where did you go to school, what do you do for a living and how long have you lived in Moab?
Norm Knapp: I moved to Moab 10 years ago and never intended to stay, but I fell in love with the beauty that surrounds us and the uniqueness of our town and the people. Now I can’t imagine living any place else. Most importantly, I’m a dad. I have a daughter who will be a Red Devil in just a few weeks and it is important to me to give back to our community and leave it just a little better for all our citizens and the generations to come. I attended school in Wyoming and I served in the Navy for five years. I’ve spent 29 years in the car business and currently own my own dealership. I was the Chamber of Commerce president for three years and have been a businessman in Moab for 10 years. I understand how important it is to balance the needs of the business community with the needs and views of the citizens of this great city.
Emily Niehaus: My name is Emily Niehaus. I followed my heart and moved to Moab in 2002 to marry my husband Chad Niehaus after graduating from Clemson University with a Master’s degree in Applied Sociology. I am a wife, mother, an affordable housing advocate and an experienced businesswoman. I am the founding director of Community Rebuilds, a locally grown affordable housing developer in Moab.
David Olsen: Hello. My name is David Olsen and I am running for mayor. I went to Jordan High School, Brigham Young University and earned my Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Utah. I am now a custodian at the Grand County Middle School and a tour guide for the Moab Adventure Center. I have lived in Moab for almost 28 years.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: My name is Gerald Reed; most know me as Roy because I go by my middle name. I graduated from Grand County High School in 2001, and have lived here since I was six. My chosen profession is as a Martial/Healing/Internal Arts Instructor.
2. Describe any previous public service or community involvement.
Norm Knapp: Other than the Navy, I served with the Chamber of Commerce in Wyoming and I have also served on several boards. These experiences have given me a great foundation in working with diverse people and difficult issues.
Emily Niehaus: I enjoy volunteering and being of service to our local nonprofits like Seekhaven, the Youth Garden Project, the Multicultural Center and others making a difference in Moab. I have been involved in several community theater projects as a producer, director and an actress. And as the founder of Community Rebuilds, I volunteered my time from 2004 to 2010 to develop a program that would eventually build (by December 2017) 28 affordable housing units in 3 different communities utilizing a student education program to offset the cost of construction for participating families. Professionally, I have been a member of Moab’s Housing Task Force since its inception and a member of the Moab Area Community Land Trust.
David Olsen: I am the bicycle representative for the State of Utah Recreational Trails Advisory Committee and have served on that committee for approximately 10 years. We decide who gets Recreational Trail Program grants. I served as the Community Development Director for Moab City from March 5, 1990, to September 23, 2015. I served on the Grand County School Board for six years, as a scoutmaster/venture leader for ten years and as a bishop for five years. I help coach the girls’ high school basketball team and have been involved in coaching kids for years.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: I’ve done my fair share of litter patrol and recycling for the community. Volunteering at the Grand County Library has brought me hours of satisfaction. I teach Chi Kung to the elderly at the Care Center, and have invested myself in the BEACON Afterschool Program, volunteering to teach young (and often difficult) children about Kung Fu (literally meaning “excellence achieved through time spent and long practice in any endeavor,” also translated as “excellence of self”) – and seen noticeable improvement in personalities, behavior and self-discipline. Currently I am a member of the School Community Council – and have never missed a meeting.
3. What are your main concerns regarding Moab’s future, and what are your top priorities as a candidate?
Norm Knapp: My top priority is reaching out to the citizens and being accountable to them. I want our citizens to feel like they are a part of the city and that we are a team working together. Our city government should be transparent and open to those they serve. Not only is that the right thing to do, I believe that we will find much better solutions to issues like housing and traffic as we reach out to and listen to the citizens of this great city.
Emily Niehaus: My main concerns for Moab’s future are a lack of affordable housing opportunities, our aging and absent infrastructure, and a lack of economic diversity. To create more affordable housing, my priority will be to connect developers with resources and work to clarify development procedure to make it easier for companies creating housing in Moab. For infrastructure development, I will support our various city departments and our partners by getting us the resources we need to further develop Moab’s gray and green infrastructure projects. And to diversify the economy, I will explore partnerships and funding opportunities that support existing and new businesses in Moab to provide residents with more employment choices.
David Olsen: My top priority is to improve Moab’s infrastructure. Moab’s water and sewer lines are old and many of them need replacing. A new water tank may be needed. Moab is completing master plans that will help the city plan to deal with these expensive projects. Prior to leaving the city, I had grants and loans prepared and had input from the Utah Division of Water Quality, Utah Drinking Water, USDA Rural Development and CIB personnel on how to get the best deals for the City. Everything except the sewer plant loan application was put on hold. I would like to push forward with as many projects that the City can afford, and get the best deals possible for residents.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: The fallout from the recent city manager, sewer treatment issues, wages and housing are all considered high priorities – although holding public servants to the same or higher standard than the public at-large is something I’m sure needs to be addressed and continued to be reinforced. There should not, and cannot, be a double standard. Our law enforcement and other authorities should always hold themselves, and be held to, a higher standard than that which all other citizens are expected to keep.
4. How much time would you devote to the job as mayor, and how would you work to ensure transparency in government and accessibility to the public?
Norm Knapp: I own my own business so I have a lot of flexibility to do whatever the job takes. To really make a difference for our community the time and attention will be great, but I am committed to being fully engaged. I cannot in good conscience give less to the people that live, work and play here. The way we communicate changes so fast that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. Priority #1 is to use some of the great tools available to reach out, get feedback, engage citizens online with more accessible streaming options, blogs, Facebook (and the list goes on!) and any other way that comes our way to help our citizens have a voice in their city.
Emily Niehaus: I want to be mayor of Moab because I am passionate about being of service to others, and right now our city needs an active and engaged professional to lead. I am committed to foster an accessible, welcoming, and respectful culture in City Hall by ensuring that staff and council have the resources and support they need to be effective in their work. And, I am committed to dedicate the time it takes to provide this needed leadership. My family and my Board of Directors at Community Rebuilds are behind me in this endeavor.
David Olsen: Our campaign packets state that all mayors are full-time. “They are mayors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” However, I need to keep a job, so I guess I would have to juggle several jobs! “Team Work with Integrity” is my campaign slogan. If we honestly work as a team and give people opportunities to be involved, we can do great things and earn respect from the community.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: I will devote as much time, attention and energy as the office of mayor needs and deserves – and still have some sort of a home life to look forward to. I do not believe the government needs to hide nor obfuscate anything from its citizens. Many peace officers are required to have monitoring equipment at all times while on duty. Politicians and other officials should be required to take it a step further, and always be monitored (except visits to the restroom, bedroom and similar personal times) and have it streamed live online (with a storage database of archived feeds for reference later). I would be perfectly willing to do this myself. Until that day, being upfront and honest with the rest of the town, meeting often with the townspeople and keeping an open door will have to suffice and should go a long way toward keeping the trust.
5. One year ago, the city was struggling with management-, personnel- and communications-related issues. How do you think that city officials are currently dealing with these issues, and do you think that any further work needs to be done to address them?
Norm Knapp: My concern is that we continually move the ball forward. My business experience will help me to do that and I am committed to making our city government, including myself, more accountable and transparent. When our citizens clearly understand what is happening in their city it makes it much easier for us to work together openly, honestly and respectfully.
Emily Niehaus: There is no doubt we are in transition. The city hired a strong interim City Manager, David Everitt, who has provided us with the leadership needed to come together to begin to solve these issues and fill critical personnel vacancies. Everitt’s contract concludes at the end of this year, and so our city will be faced with recruiting and hiring the right leader to complete this transition and move forward to effectively manage our city.
David Olsen: It was over two years ago and after (former Moab City Manager Donna Metzler) resigned that some city leaders created those problems at a great cost. I did my best to report things that were wrong, and so did others. I wish officials would have addressed the problems earlier. The problems were mitigated when they hired Dave Everitt. I think city officials are doing a better job.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: The recent struggles of the city seemed to have smoothed over at present, but that doesn’t mean the underlying issues have been worked out. Time will tell if that is the case. Proactively fixing things is a better way than only smoothing out the symptoms. Whoever gets into office is going to have their work cut out for them.
6. The limited availability of affordable housing and workforce housing remains a perennial concern in Moab and Grand County. Is the city moving in the right direction on this issue? What can the mayor do to help city officials promote the development of more housing for people who live and work in the community?
Norm Knapp: I think some good things have happened in this area. As mayor, I’d like to play a role in bringing all stakeholders together to find the best way to make a real impact in this area without the city being heavy-handed and overreaching. There are ways that the city can help the situation but I think we must always be mindful that the government’s role should be limited.
Emily Niehaus: As the Founding Director of Community Rebuilds, I have addressed one slice of the affordable housing pie. As mayor, I can address the full spectrum of our housing needs and ensure that Moab is an affordable place to live and work. As mayor, I can do this work by connecting developers with critical resources and working with developers to clarify the city’s development policies and procedures. Because this is such a complex issue, our next mayor must be experienced in developing housing as well as be a creative problem solver. I see challenges as “opportunities” rather than “obstacles,” and I am ready to work hard to solve this issue.
David Olsen: As far as plans go, the city and county have moved in the right direction. The 2017 Moab Area Affordable Housing plan is fantastic and I would promote the recommendations of the Interlocal Housing Task Force’s recommendations listed on page 91 of the plan. I would also encourage more apartments to be built on top of retail stores and other buildings, and promote tiny homes to be built in the back of commercial lots that have space for them.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: The city has been making a token effort to fix the housing problems, but they haven’t been doing what ultimately needs to be done. Regulations can give a reprieve not only for the housing that has become too expensive but also for wages earned in the city. A long-term restriction/moratorium can be put in place against allowing certain kinds of businesses to be constructed. When more hotels are built, but no housing or decent wages can accommodate workers for these establishments, it seems a tad on the silly side to continue allowing more to be built when the current businesses have difficulty finding and keeping workers for housekeeping and other duties.
7. Are there any issues affecting the city that should be getting more attention?
Norm Knapp: We have made improvements in our infrastructure but we cannot just sit back and assume that issue is resolved. It isn’t an exciting topic, but the improvements we’ve made will not sustain this community and we must make plans for the future so that we do not end up in the same situation we did in the last few years. It’s probably the topic no one really wants to talk about and it’s the least “fun” to spend money on, but without it we see horrible consequences that we do not want to deal with again.
Emily Niehaus: We have gray and green infrastructure projects underway that need to be completed on time and (hopefully) under budget. I will do all I can to support staff and council to complete these existing projects as well as to develop a critical path for the projects next in line. This work is imperative because our infrastructure defines our safety, our culture, and our resources. But we cannot solve any issues without effectively working together. There is a lack of vision and common ground among staff, council and the citizens of Moab. My approach will be to foster an accessible, welcoming and respectful culture in City Hall as well as co-create a new vision for the City of Moab.
David Olsen: One concern is the amount of money that will now go toward the creation of three new high-paying positions and other expenditures. That money, and future money could have gone towards essential projects to relieve the rate payers. I am also concerned about health care costs, broken families, drugs, pollution, economic diversity, goatheads, the loss of coral reefs (not a local problem, but still a huge concern), etc.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: At the moment, I cannot come up with anything that needs more attention and/or action by the city than what has already been mentioned. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a different answer later, when I’ve either given it more consideration or something else may come up needing the attention of those in positions of government.
8. What do you do for fun, and what is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Norm Knapp: I love music and so I enjoy concerts and anything to do with music. I don’t think most people know that I am a pilot and really enjoy flying.
Emily Niehaus: My friends know that I love getting out for hikes and rafting trips. I have paddled my SUP (stand up paddle board) down the Green River’s Desolation Canyon, the San Juan River and the Moab Daily. But not many people know how much I love roller coasters, carnivals, fireworks, corndogs and the Cincinnati Reds!
David Olsen: I like doing things with my family, biking, motorcycle riding and hiking with my dogs. A few years ago, I re-learned how to play the trumpet and started playing a saxophone. My former bishop is now helping me do genealogy and family history work. I also like to decorate and light up my yard for Halloween and Christmas. Most people don’t know that I make really good smoothies.
Gerald “Roy” Reed: Being outdoorsy is what I’m about – yet I also enjoy catching the occasional movie, playing a captivating video/tabletop game or reading. Good books can ensnare me all day (and sometimes all night for that matter) and I love creative writing and personal expression through other arts. Working out is quite fitting, if you’ll excuse the play on words. Family time is a large part of my life, and quality time with my children is something that I value above everything else. Something that most people don’t know about me is that, even though I feel confident in my ability for self-defense if needed, that is not the reason why I began learning martial arts – for me it was a means for ongoing self-improvement. The same holds true for the kids I’m raising; such study and practice improves them in every way. They are better for the undertaking, and that is so rewarding.
Four candidates are running for mayor in the City of Moab’s Aug. 15 primary election: Norm Knapp, Emily Niehaus, David Olsen and Gerald “Roy” Reed. The Moab Sun News invited each of the candidates to answer a series of questions about themselves and issues that affect Moab. The primary election will narrow the field of candidates from four to two.
The City of Moab will be holding a vote-by-mail primary election for mayor on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The Moab City Recorder’s Office mailed about 2,500 ballots on Tuesday, July 25, to registered voters who live within the city limits. The city switched to a vote-by-mail election this year, so voters cannot cast their ballots at traditional polling places on Aug. 15. However, if voters prefer to drop off their ballots in person, they will be able to do so at the Moab City Center, 217 E. Center St., and the Grand County Clerk’s Office, 125 E. Center St. For more information about the primary election, go to: moabcity.org/index.aspx?NID=435, or call the Moab City Recorder’s Office at 435-259-2683.