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?
Mike Duncan: I’m a retired engineer. I grew up in Texas, earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado, then built science instruments for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Ball Aerospace. My wife Bonnie, a Salt Lake City native, and I had been coming over here for years to hike and raft, crashing on friends’ floors when it was too snowy to climb mountains in Colorado. We moved here 15 years ago. My parents didn’t approve – they weren’t even sure where Utah was, let alone Moab.
Cassie Patterson: My name is Cassie Patterson and I am a single mom of two wonderful little boys. I attended high school and community college in Ridgecrest, California, before moving to San Francisco to attend culinary school. I currently work at MRAC, where I care for children while their parents use our facilities. I was born in Moab but moved back in 2009 after growing up in California with a few months in the Dallas area.
Karen Guzman-Newton: Hi, my name is Karen Guzman-Newton. I have lived in Moab for over 20 years. I met my husband on a bike ride, here in Moab. We have been married for 18-plus years and are raising two children, a senior and a fifth-grader, who attend Grand County schools. I graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder and earned a BA in Humanities. I have worn many hats since living in Moab and a few at the same time! I’ve worked as a guide, substitute teacher, customer service agent at the airport, and event planner; I’ve owned a cafe, welding business and currently own and manage a rental property; and for the last 11 years, I’ve been a co-owner of Poison Spider Bicycles.
Brian Ballard: I moved to Moab with my family in 1980 to work as a police officer for the City of Moab. I found additional work as a builder and started my own business, Grand Valley Construction. Over the years my work has included building homes, developing a retreat on the La Sal Mountains and working as an organic farmer.
2. Describe any previous public service or community involvement.
Mike Duncan: I served eight years on Grand County Planning Commission including a stint as chair. I’m on the Moab Irrigation Co. and Moab City Water Advisory Boards, serve on Moab Poets and Writers’ board and sing/play music for seniors at Canyonlands Care Center. I’m a math tutor at USU and have volunteered many times over the years.
Cassie Patterson: While I don’t have much experience, I am passionate about helping others and politics in general. Like many of us living here, I am concerned about the way things are being handled by our city government and have a strong desire to make a change in this community.
Karen Guzman-Newton: I’ve always been involved with my children’s classrooms and have helped out with fundraising activities for the schools and with extracurricular activities for students. Financially supporting or donating time to various causes and groups in the community has always been a priority as a resident and business owner.
Brian Ballard: I served as a Moab City Police officer for approximately 10 years. I served on the Moab Irrigation Board; and served as the Grand County High School tennis coach.
3. What are your main concerns regarding Moab’s future, and what are your top priorities as a candidate?
Mike Duncan: Actually, I think Moab has far more positive things going for it than negative against it. So many other towns would be grateful for the problems we have. Industrial-scale tourism, yes, but it’s still an amazing, stunningly beautiful place. Like other resort destinations, making the place affordable for our workforce tops the list. Easily the most emotional issue, UTVs are widely disliked by residents for their noise; more stringent measures may eventually be necessary. In the long term, we’ll have to reconcile valley build-out with sustainable water supplies, which is sure to provoke “fighting words,” as it always has in the arid West.
Cassie Patterson: Seeing how difficult it has become to afford living in our beautiful home is concerning to me and I am intent on changing that for everyone. We have a very large amount of tourists every year, yet we are not welcoming them with well-functioning infrastructure. State legislature has also noted a lack of cohesion between city and county councils and bridging that gap is important to me so that we may be heard and taken seriously by our lawmakers at the state level.
Karen Guzman-Newton: My biggest concerns are preserving and improving Moab residents’ quality of life, and making our community a safe and healthy place for children and families to thrive. Top priorities are available housing, neighborhood integrity, safe schools, economic opportunities and livable wages. The city can be a leader and coordinate and help facilitate better communication with all the stakeholders that are working on these issues.
Brian Ballard: My main concern regarding Moab’s future is our youth; and to be sure that we as a community provide hope for all children, even those who may not have the opportunity or inclination for higher education. We need to address the cycles of intergenerational poverty, bullying, substance use and domestic violence and give our young people a chance to live healthy, happy lives.
4. How much time would you devote to the job as council member, and how would you work to ensure transparency in government and accessibility to the public?
Mike Duncan: I’m retired with no other significant time commitments other than the usual travel to see family and vacations. I’m committed to transparency because it’s critical for good government. I’ve heard stories from contractors about non-responsive city staff, from entrepreneurs about an unreasonably slow permit process, from residents whose property floods during rainstorms. If I’m elected, I hope to be able to help all of these people – I’m here to do the little things as well as the big things. Gratefully, Moab is still a face-to-face small town.
Cassie Patterson: I will devote as much time as I am afforded outside of caring for my family and intend on having a monthly or biweekly open door session, open to the public.
Karen Guzman-Newton: I would devote as much time as needed to get the job done. I’m very fortunate to have my family supporting my decision to run for office and I am ready to serve, to give back to a community that’s given me so much. I have the time and the energy, and am willing to listen with respect and learn from others, even if I don’t always agree. As a council member, I will strive to enhance public input on decisions that affect residents’ daily lives. The more information residents have about city council decisions that could affect their neighborhoods and quality of life, the more likely they will be to provide input. With more community input, the council’s decisions will be more thoughtful and representative of the community, and not just a particular special interest.
Brian Ballard: I’m blessed to be my own employer. I have the time, energy and ability to serve our community. I have confidence to work with the existing council members and our to-be-elected mayor and council member. There is proper process and procedure in government, which often makes it move more slowly than we may want, but it is that process that provides transparency.
5. Just over 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?
Mike Duncan: I’m delighted that we now have a respected city manager on board – if and when we must hire a new one the process must be kept as open and transparent as possible. I applaud the city’s large ads on relevant topics in the newspapers. I also applaud the hiring of our new communications director. I would like to see improved communication between planning staff, council and residents.
Cassie Patterson: Our problems are far from solved but are headed in the correct direction with the help of David Everitt. Having a more ideologically balanced council with a fresh voice and outsider’s perspective is just what is needed to get our local officials back on track.
Karen Guzman-Newton: The city has recognized the need for more open government and has taken steps to better communicate with the public. For instance, the city’s Facebook page has information on meetings and issues, and also a live video of council meetings and information about what’s happening around Moab. The city has hired a top-notch professional as the new chief of police; a professional city manager who appreciates an open decision-making process and welcomes input; an experienced public works director and Engineer that is addressing age-old infrastructure issues and working out replacement and repair plans; and a communications/engagement director who is a liaison with all city departments and the public working to create opportunities for more public engagement and timely notifications. In any healthy relationship, be it in business, government or with a partner, you will always be working on communication; it is ever evolving. As a council member, I will encourage the city to continue working on communication, within city departments and with the public.
Brian Ballard: I don’t have enough information to know how much has been resolved, and I believe there are still costly lawsuits still in process. There remains an appearance of firings and hirings that are politically motivated. I am concerned about city employee morale, and their ability to honestly address these issues with confidence and without fear. As a council member, I believe that we have work to do to earn the trust of both residents and city employees.
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 council members do to help city officials promote the development of more housing for people who live and work in the community?
Mike Duncan: The city is moving, but there’s more to be done. Council has adopted several increased-density related development standards proposed by the planning commission. Still to be considered are reduced open-space requirements for apartments, reduced street widths and height extensions. Further, Planned Unit Developments are a great tool to encourage affordable housing, reduce fear of new, denser developments and mitigate their impacts to existing neighborhoods. Also, the state is considering prohibiting municipalities from prohibiting listings of homes on overnight rental websites – this needs to be fought by invoking local control because it would further reduce the effective long-term housing supply.
Cassie Patterson: Council members must stop getting in their own way regarding high-density housing projects. Offering incentives to developers will also be instrumental in increasing the supply of affordable housing, thus reducing high prices caused by increased demand.
Karen Guzman-Newton: The city is moving in the right direction and I believe we will get there as more residents get involved in the discussion to find workable solutions; we all know we must have housing for our workforce! Housing is not a one size fits all issue. I support a broad spectrum of housing options to help fill our housing gaps, be it apartments, deed-restricted developments, high-density areas. But most importantly, we must have surrounding neighborhoods and residents involved in the discussions early on in the process to come up with workable solutions together.
Brian Ballard: The city is moving in the right direction by addressing issues that affect affordability, which includes zoning and density. However, all progress stalls when there is any complaint. There is a theory of utilitarianism where the needs of the many outweigh the concerns of the few. We need to address the needs of the many at this time.
7. Are there any issues affecting the city that should be getting more attention?
Mike Duncan: I’ve spent many an evening going door-to-door inquiring about residents’ concerns. Besides the issues mentioned already, I’ve heard complaints about badly tarred streets from both motorized and non-motorized users. I hear about aging infrastructure, which the city is addressing – replacing water pipes, sewers, a water tank and of course a new water treatment plant coming on line late next year, expected to suffice for at least 20 years. Residents also mention an over-dependence on tourism, for which I’m hopeful that USU expansion comes sooner rather than later – I can’t emphasize too strongly how education can make Moab a more vibrant, diversified community. I’ve also suggested solar farms in appropriate locations. One resident, a young schoolteacher, suggested to me a high-tech vocational school which might teach computer programming, web services and solar and wind farm installation and maintenance.
Cassie Patterson: The vast divide the country is experiencing has started to seep into our home; building a stronger sense of belonging and unity has to start small, with us.
Karen Guzman-Newton: One of the biggest issues we cannot ignore any longer is that drugs, alcohol and bullying are on our school grounds and in Moab Valley. This is a community-wide issue and we are all accountable. We all are affected when a local sandwich shop closes down because of drug trafficking, when kids are high at school or people are incapacitated on the Mill Creek pathway, and police are constantly dealing with more domestic violence calls. We have to work toward solutions to help all of our neighbors, especially our youth, feel valued and working toward a common goal: community health.
Brian Ballard: I look forward to driving the roads once the chip seal is complete, but it is a cosmetic Band-Aid to a problem. We have ancient pipes that need to be replaced, as well as decades-old road bases that need to be replaced. We also need to make our city is safe for school children and other pedestrians.
8. What do you do for fun, and what is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Mike Duncan: I do my singer-songwriter thing occasionally, and play piano, guitar and fiddle because, well, I love making music. Bonnie and I took two years to build our “dream house” on our “dream lot” after moving to Moab. I only fell off the roof once. Amazingly, we were still married when we were done. And I like to make the joke, “Never argue with a woman with a nail gun in her hand.”
Cassie Patterson: Watching my children grow and learn is the most fun thing I could ever do! When I get a chance to do something on my own, however, I love to express myself in various ways, including singing, dancing, writing, painting, or cooking.
Karen Guzman-Newton: I love to travel with my family, nothing gives me a better appreciation of home than getting out and getting a different perspective. I ride my bike and ski in the winter, but the most fun I have is with the Zumba ladies (and Rob) at the MRAC. Most people wouldn’t know I had to solo a Cessna 152, before I was able to get my driver’s license.
Brian Ballard: I love tennis. A few days ago, my partner and I won gold at the Huntsman Senior Games in St. George. I love to bake bread, coffee cake, carrot cake and cookies. I have an organic farm up on the La Sals where I grow potatoes and other vegetables. I love to cook for family and friends.
The City of Moab’s vote-by-mail general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7. In addition to the mayoral race, four candidates are running for two open seats on the Moab City Council: Brian Ballard, Karen Guzman-Newton, Cassie Patterson and Mike Duncan. Ballots for the election were scheduled to be mailed on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Voters can drop off their ballots at the Moab City Center polling place at 217 E. Center St. by Election Day, or simply return them in the mail by Nov. 7. The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 31, either in-person at the Grand County Clerk’s Office at 125 E. Center St. or online at vote.utah.gov. For more information, call the Moab City Recorder’s Office at 435-259-2683, or go to the city’s official election site at: www.moabcity.state.ut.us/index.aspx?NID=236.