Mary McGann

Although I would rather write about how thankful I am for my family, friends and our community, I decided to address Grand County’s imminent change in form of government, as many citizens are concerned.  

Once I got over the shock of the legislature passing House Bill 224 and the fact that Grand County’s form of government was no longer grandfathered in, I felt it was important to educate the citizens of Grand County to ensure they understood the bill, the forms of county government available to choose from and what the bill required of both elected officials and voters.  

To achieve this, I worked with the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Grand County to provide a program for the public that included local and state experts to go over our options. The morning following the LWV program, I met with leaders of the Republican Party, including Jeramy Day, Jerry McNeely and Curtis Wells, along with the CEO of the Utah Association of Counties, Adam Trupp, to talk about the importance of working across the aisle so that all citizens feel their voices are heard as we comply with HB224.

As comfortable as I have been with our current form of county government, I recognize that a number of our citizens feel differently. That is why there have been attempts over the years to change our form of government, all of which have been defeated by the voters at the polls.

No form of government is perfect, and following the passage of HB224, I realized we had the opportunity to engage our citizens with a formal study committee process to look at what works and what needs improvement in our county government; to select the best possible form of county government for Grand County available under the law; and to take that recommendation to the voters.

To create such a recommendation, the study committee must be representative of the voters in Grand County, and from the beginning I have been in favor of ensuring that the study committee is balanced and includes the voices of those who have felt disenfranchised.

As I write this, I realize that on November 28, I will be at a pretrial hearing at the Grand County Courthouse as the named defendant for the Grand County Council in a lawsuit brought by the leadership of the Republican Party against the Grand County Council because we followed the advice of our Grand County Attorney and that of outside legal counsel. When the clause that grandfathered our form of county government was deleted by HB224, the only entity that could be mandated legally by the state to initiate the change in county government was the county legislative body. We are being taken to court for following the law and protecting the right of all Grand County citizens to have a voice in choosing a new form of county government.

No matter what happens in court on Wednesday, a formal study committee will be appointed. Per HB224, this study committee shall “study the form of government within the county and compare it with other forms; determine whether the administration of local government in the county could be strengthened, made more clearly responsive or accountable to the people, or significantly improved in the interest of economy and efficiency by a change in the form of county government.”

The study committee will next “hold public hearings and community forums and other means the committee considers appropriate to disseminate information and stimulate public discussion of the committee’s purposes, progress and conclusions.” Then, the committee will “file a written report of the study committee’s findings and recommendations with the county executive, the county legislative body, and the county clerk no later than one year after the convening of the study committee’s first meeting.”

The Mullen-McGann clan is a large and diverse family. I love and respect those family members who are polar opposites of me politically. This community is also my family and as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be, we all need to be able to listen to and respect different points of view.  

Democracy requires we all work together to find common ground.

Please join in the conversation as we move forward to find the best form of county government for all of us.

Mary McGann has called Moab her home since 1957. She is presently the chair of the Grand County Council. In this editorial she is speaking as private citizen, not as the chair of the Grand County Council.

“This community is also my family and as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be, we all need to be able to listen to and respect different points of view.”