Utah state residents will begin receiving ballots in the mail this week and election officials are urging voters to make their choices and return their ballots as soon as possible. All mailed ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2. Voters may also leave their ballots in a drop box at the Clerk/Auditor’s Office within the Grand County building (125 E. Center Street, Moab) during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.
Kevin Walker has lived in Moab for 30 years and has been a researcher for most of his professional life. Initially, he was drawn to the region, like so many, by the landscape but says that he appreciates Moab’s “small-town vibe.”
“What I really appreciate about Grand County is the variety, both in the geology and in the people,” Walker said.
Walker serves on the Grand County Planning Commission and is the chair of the Grand County Democratic Party.
Grand County brings in a significant amount of money to Utah’s tourism economy, but appears to struggle to be heard at the State Legislature. How do you plan on reaching out and building local political power?
I think that when Grand County citizens speak up and write letters in a coordinated fashion, it can have an effect at the state legislature. This needs to be combined with one-on-one interactions between county and city elected representatives and state legislators. We also need to sustain a consistent message on our priorities over longer periods of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how tenuous some aspects of the local economy are. How would you work to strengthen local businesses in the future?
More economic diversity will make our local economy more resilient in the face of future disruptions. Earlier this year, Grand County had the highest unemployment rate in the state thanks to our heavy reliance on tourism. Our approaches to economic diversification should themselves be diverse: education (USU expansion), light manufacturing, health care, retirees, etc. One potentially beneficial effect of COVID-19 is that there are now quite a few workers with portable jobs. If we work hard to make sure Grand County remains a great place to live, we can attract some of these workers who have newly portable jobs, and this will have beneficial spin-off effects. And of course, making sure Grand County remains a great place to live benefits all of us, so it’s a win-win strategy for economic diversification.
What’s an example of a great ordinance or political move you’ve seen in the last few years here in Grand County?
The moratorium on new tourist accommodation was an important and necessary step. It should have happened a couple of years earlier, but better late than never.
Development and zoning changes are hugely important, particularly along the county line in the Spanish Valley area. If you could change one thing about how Grand and San Juan counties work together, what would it be and why?
I think we should establish an advisory body to help coordinate planning and zoning in Spanish Valley’s three jurisdictions: Moab City, unincorporated Grand County, and northern San Juan County. I think the new San Juan County Commission would be open to this. Recent political changes in SJC are opening up opportunities which would have been unimaginable a few years ago. I have good relationships with SJC Commissioners Maryboy and Grayeyes, and I’m optimistic that Grand and San Juan counties will do a better job of coordinating in the future.
How do you plan to involve Grand County residents who feel left out of the decision-making process?
I think we need to be constantly on the look-out for ways to improve public notification and outreach. Too often people become aware of things affecting their neighborhood only after the important decisions have been made.
How would you evaluate a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure?
The candidate provided no answer.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put Grand County on a firmer footing for future growth?
External economic forces have caused us to grow too fast in recent years. We need to slow things down and aim for slow, steady, sustainable growth. We need to transition from quantitative growth to qualitative growth — make things better without making them bigger. Recent hydrological studies suggest that we are already bumping up against the limits of our water supply.
In our print edition, this answer was run in reply to the previous question. Mr. Walker clarified it was in response to this question. -ed.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the county in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
I would probably spread it around to a number of different things: education, eldercare, noise ordinance enforcement, better planning, etc.