[Courtesy photo]

On April 5, Grand County Commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Josie Kovash to fill a vacancy left on the commission when former Chair Gabriel Woytek resigned to take a position as the County Clerk/Auditor. Kovash will serve for the remainder of Woytek’s term, until the end of 2022. Commissioners described the two other applicants—Daniel Stenta and Bill Winfield—as excellent candidates, but chose Kovash because of her familiarity with the most pressing issues currently facing the county.

“I feel very honored to serve, if only briefly for now, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for the Moab community and the broader region of Grand County,” Kovash said in a statement to the Moab Sun News.

Kovash has lived in Moab for 17 years and has worked or volunteered for many nonprofits and community organizations, including the Youth Garden Project, KZMU Community Radio, local forest advocacy nonprofit Red Rock Forests, the youth outdoor organization Outward Bound, Moab Pride, local sustainability nonprofit the Resiliency Hub, Moonflower Market, Moab Community Theatre, the Youth Rock Camp of Moab, and Grand Area Mentoring. She has also served on the Grand County Planning Commission since 2020, a position that’s given her experience with the county’s land use code, development planning, and affordable housing efforts.

“Our predominant focus right now in the county is affordable and workforce housing, and I think Josie has a really great understanding of those issues,” said Commissioner Trisha Hedin, after moving to appoint Kovash to the position.

“I think it sets her up to be primed to be able to take action with us,” Commissioner Sarah Stock agreed. Stock seconded Hedin’s motion, and added that Kovash has also been active in the local movement to reduce traffic noise in town, another pressing issue before the commission. Kovash collaborated with her father, Jon Kovash, to produce a special radio report called “Dispatch from the undisputed motorhead capital of the west” about rising noise concerns in Moab.

“And she just ran a city election where she was very narrowly defeated, so to me that demonstrates that she has strong community support for public office,” Stock said. Kovash ran for a position on the Moab City Council in 2021; she lost by a few votes to Luke Wojciechowski.

In her application letter to the commission, Kovash wrote that Moab can be, at best, a haven centered around the outdoors and community, or at worst “an abrasive theme park fueled by outside investors and serving outside interests.”

“…my interest to serve on the County Commission is driven by my most fervent wish that we can course correct to a more balanced economy and ecology and preserve quality of life for those who live and work here,” she wrote.

That sentiment resonated with Commissioner Kevin Walker, who said that quality of life is the issue of greatest concern for residents right now.

“One of the reasons I support Josie is I think she does have good perspective on that issue and I think she will try hard to make this a liveable place for all of us,” Walker said.

All commissioners agreed that both Stenta and Winfield would have been good choices as well. Stenta is a civil engineer and has worked for Moab City as well as the Moab Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management. Winfield is a lifelong local resident, a contractor and developer, and has served or contributed to several local nonprofits. Winfield is running for an at-large seat on the commission in this fall’s election; the election could have been affected if he held the seat while running, so commissioners ruled him out as an appointee.

Commissioner Mary McGann expressed a hope that Stenta might be interested in filling the vacancy left on the planning commission, with Kovash leaving that body to join the county commission.

Kovash was sworn in and began serving at the same April 5 meeting, commenting on issues and voting on agenda items. McGann noted that with Kovash on board, there are more women than men on the commission—a historic first.