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November 8 is Election Day, but your mail-in ballot should be arriving soon—why wait to learn more about this year’s candidates? This week, we spoke to candidates running for the three other local positions up for election this year: fire commissioner, county attorney, and county sheriff.

The Moab Valley Fire Protection District Commission is a three-member body that manages the Moab Valley Fire Department.

Charlie Harrison

Can you tell our readers a little about your background and how you came to run for office?

This is my home. I’ve raised my family here and built a successful 32-year business. I have served as a volunteer firefighter with Moab Valley Fire Department (MVFD) for over 15 years and as Fire Commission for the past two years. We have an excellent team that literally save lives by working so well together in an emergency. It is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced that level of dedication and commitment to the Department. I bring sound fiscal experience from managing sizable budgets, deep understanding of not only the inner workings of MVFD, but of public safety agencies which can greatly improve our overall response and readiness. It can be confusing to someone new and as a result,  misinformation has circulated which doesn’t serve our Department or community well. I’d reference the Letter to the Editor from our Fire Department that was published in last week’s paper for clarity on these matters. In short, I not only bring experience, I bring the experience that matters. 

If elected, what would your first priorities be? How do you feel your positions differ from your opponent’s?

My priorities are to not only continue our current great level of fire protection services, but work to improve even further. Every change has to be taken with serious reflection, carefully weighing advantages and disadvantages to ensure response rates and fire operations remain at the highest level. Additional priorities are on protecting our taxpayers from unnecessary costs wherever possible.

It’s my priority to continue to earn the public’s trust by ensuring the integrity of our team. Achieving coveted low ISO rates is an incredible feat with an all volunteer team in a town with limited economic and housing options.

Working within s fire department is not to be done on a whim. People’s lives can be at stake. Cutting budget could have direct impacts on proper maintenance and equipment purchases. While I would encourage anyone who wishes to enter into fire management to do so, it would be most appropriate to match skills with an appropriate role for the safety of all.

I appreciate the trust and value our community has placed on how well our Fire Department is operating, and I’ve been deeply humbled by the support of our volunteer firefighters.

Why should voters vote for me? Because experience matters.

Sam Van Wetter

Can you tell our readers a little about your background and how you came to run for office?

I first moved to Moab as a mountain bike guide and fell in love with the land and the community. As someone who has been involved in political organizing since before I could vote, I was glad to find a job in Grand County that allowed me to engage in local issues, support progressive ideals, and present alternatives to the entrenched leadership Southern Utah has traditionally seen. It was a natural extension for me to enter the race for Fire Commissioner against an incumbent, offering choice in an elected position that hasn’t seen a challenger since the early 1990s.

Fire Commission, an administrative board that oversees budgetary and policy decisions for Moab Valley Fire Department, is a tax-levying entity whose decisions and planning have not received proper attention. I learned of concerns with double-taxation of Grand County property owners: we are taxed directly by the Fire District and then contribute County tax money to fire response reimbursement for calls outside of the district. I decided to run to elevate this conversation, offering my skills in grant writing to diversify the District’s funding sources and a vision for pragmatic planning to avoid surprising and expensive tax hikes in the future.

If elected, what would your first priorities be? How do you feel your positions differ from your opponent’s?

If elected, I will continue to advocate for annexation of northern Grand County into the Fire District. This would enable the District to levy taxes on commercial properties, oil & gas leases, and railroads, expanding and diversifying our tax base. Annexation would certainly bring other issues: in order to keep our ISO rating (an insurance score based on response time, hydrant locations, and other factors) low, we would likely need to increase staffing. I would prioritize a pragmatic approach to these issues, working to ensure excellent service to Moab residents while rectifying bad tax policy.

I would also work to increase the transparency and information availability for District residents. Currently, information such as fire inspection requirements, district maps, and Commission meeting minutes can only be found by navigating between Fire Department and County websites. I would work with Department staff to consolidate this information, making it more accessible and understandable.

I would also work to continue to show appreciation for the brave and selfless firefighters, volunteers who respond at all hours of the day and night to keep our community safe. I’d ensure they have proper mental health resources, functional equipment, and a Commission that is aware of their needs.