[Courtesy photo]

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.

Trisha Hedin grew up in northern California, where her family worked as loggers. She moved to Washington for school and began teaching fourth, fifth and eighth grades in the Tacoma public school system. She received a graduate degree in environmental education and moved to Moab in the early 2000s to work for the nonprofit Canyonlands Field Institute. Hedin has worked for CFI, the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education in Monticello, and teaches third grade and serves as director of adult education and the concurrent enrollment facilitator for the Grand County School District. Hedin lives in Spanish Valley and is an avid hunter and climber.

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 have always asserted that I believe that our community needs to collaborate with other communities that have the same agenda as our own to gather political power. I believe that it would be in our best interest to work collectively with Summit County (Park City) and Washington County (Springdale/St. George) in order to have our voices heard, and have our needs met. The reality is these communities are unusual. We harbor not only tremendous natural resources, but we also have atypical needs due to the massive amount of tourists that we seek to appease on a regular basis. It is of utmost importance to work together for solutions to our abnormal needs, but also to have muscle within the State Legislature.

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?

Any community that lacks economic diversity is at risk of boom and bust cycles. Our community is no different. We have grown and prospered due to tourism and I don’t think that anyone can negate this fact. However, that being said, I think that tourism is also beginning to inhibit the quality of our community member’s lives and it might be time to look at finding sustainable solutions to not only diversify our economy, but mitigate the impacts of tourism. That being said, I think it is important to look to strengthen the local industries that are thriving here, while at the same time attempting to bring in new light manufacturing.

What’s an example of a great ordinance or political move you’ve seen in the last few years here in Grand County?

I spend a tremendous amount of my time in the Book Cliffs and have for years and years. I think the idea of running another highway through this area is a tragedy to not only the environment and the wildlife that inhabit that environment, but also to taxpayers in general. It should be understood that we already have many highways that move through these remote regions. The energy production that takes place in the Uintah Basin has done so successfully for decades without a highway and moves predominantly to the north and west where the refineries are. It makes no sense to me why the taxpayers of this state should foot the bill for another highway that brings minimal, if any, benefits to its citizens. I believe that Grand County’s stand on opposing this highway was an excellent political maneuver and hopefully that stand will preserve the wild nature of this region.

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 believe it is of utmost importance that we work with San Juan County in the zoning of Spanish Valley. I think that we need to look at a number of issues collaboratively that would affect this part of our community. We need to look at the water resources that we have to sustain enhanced development in Spanish Valley. Do we have the water resources to not only sustain our community, but massive amounts of tourists, coupled with the drought cycles that we see riddling the West? These are questions we need to be researching extensively and taking that data to make well-informed choices. What do the members of our community want as far as development in Spanish Valley? I believe, but not speaking for others, that most of this community wants to retain the rural nature that comes with living in Spanish or Castle Valley, for example, and we must work to preserve that rural character which means mitigating the impacts that come with high density or commercial zoning.

How do you plan to involve Grand County residents who feel left out of the decision-making process?

Obviously we have a system in place where community members have the ability to weigh in at city or council meetings and I think that is of utmost importance. I have been on the board of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for years and I believe that public comment, coupled with sound science, has great impacts on the decisions made by that agency. That being said, I believe that community members need to voice their opinions and I would hope that county and city legislative bodies will hear those comments. However, I do believe that it is critical that we begin to do more community surveys to gather essential information needed when making crucial decisions as to the development of our community.

How would you evaluate a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure?

I think that you need to look at multiple factors when making decisions that will impact our community, not only in reference to spending taxpayer dollars, but also to the overall structure of our [region]. I think that you need to have the appropriate science backing your decisions. That being said, are we utilizing social science data coupled with planners and planning architecture to make informed decisions? I think that we need to incorporate the needs and wants of our community. Are we providing the appropriate outlets to allow our citizens to be heard? Lastly, do we have the money? This is a fairly basic concept. All of us, within our own lives, have to live within our means. We need to look hard at our income within this community and seek to appropriately budget for our expenditures.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our region on a firmer footing for future growth?

The three things that I believe are imperative to look at as we move forward: (1) Water. Do we have the water resources to sustain our community, the tourism that this community supports and a turbulent climate? I think it imperative that we look at hard scientific data and future modeling to make informed decisions. (2) Quality of life. I think that there are reasons that people that were raised here stay and that people come here. There is a quality of life that this community affords. We must look at those factors and seek to retain them. (3) Sustainable growth, coupled with a diverse economy. In the end, the explosive growth that we have seen in the tourism industry has overwhelmed this community. Can we find a way to grow, diversify our economy and live comfortably?

If you received a $1 million grant to use in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I don’t think that this has anything to do with my needs and wants; however, that being said, I think that it would make the most sense that we make sure that our budget is in the black. If we’re in debt, we pay off that debt and/or high-interest loans first. If that was done and money existed for our community members to benefit, I think that a public survey would be needed to assess the needs and wants of our taxpayers.