Steve and Jaylyn Hawks. [Photo: Utah State University Moab]

When Jaylyn Hawks entered local government six years ago, she didn’t imagine that her tenure would end with a pandemic and a trip to Japan. Now that her husband, Steve Hawks, has accepted a visiting professorship across the Pacific Ocean, she will have to leave Grand County behind.

“I thought about letting him go by himself, but I consider this the chance of a lifetime and didn’t want to miss out,” Hawks said in a press release printed on Nov. 5. “I have decided to step down from my county position at the end of the year and let someone else have a chance.”

Steve Hawks, Professor of Health Education and Promotion at Utah State University, will become a Visiting Professor of Public Health at the University of Tsukuba. The Japanese university is one of the highest-ranked in the country and known for its world-class research facilities. The role begins in January.

“I lived in Japan for two years when I was younger and am excited to become reacquainted with the language and people,” he said in the press release. “Being with USU students in Japan, working side-by-side with students and faculty from the University of Tsukuba, will definitely be a career highlight.”

Jaylyn Hawks moved to Moab in 1997, working at local nonprofits and running her own bed-and-breakfast. She has been a member of the Grand County Council (now Commission) since 2014 and has served as Vice Chair.

In an interview with the Moab Sun News, Hawks said she will continue her tenure as a commissioner at least until December of this year. In January, she reported, the newly seated commission will appoint a new member to replace her.

“I’m quite proud of the work we did on the public lands initiative and the overnight accommodations work we did. We need to take care of the visitors that we currently have rather than push for more,” Hawks said. “I’m very pleased that we were able to find a different route to the form of government, making it compliant with statute and giving voters more of a choice in how they want the government to look.”

Hawks said that she is uncertain whether she will run again for county government when she returns from Japan, but until then, she looks forward to immersing herself in a new culture and lifestyle.

“I will study the language, enjoy new places and people, immerse myself in the amazing cultural opportunities Japan has to offer…and take my sushi habit to a whole new level,” she said.

She said she will miss the red rocks of Grand County, but more than the natural beauty, Hawks expressed her love and passion for local government in Moab’s surrounding areas.

“I feel honored to have been able to serve in this position for six years. And I think our county is amazing. The constituents are diverse and wonderful,” she continued. “I encourage our constituents to keep being involved and I thank them for my time serving here. I know that not every decision I made was great, but I gave it my best effort — I have no regrets.”