By Tom Haraldsen
CEDAR CITY—Six candidates vying for two seats on the Iron County Commission addressed the Iron County Board of Realtors last Wednesday. Regarding the biggest challenges facing the commission, there seemed to be widespread agreement among the candidates.
Taking part were two candidates for Commission Seat A—current commissioner Michael Bleak and challenger Fred Rowley. Four candidates for Commission Seat B also took part—Paul Cozzens and Jennie Hendricks, who were chosen as primary candidates at the county’s Republican convention last month, along with Sam Brower and Michelle Jorgenson, who qualified for the primary through gathering signatures. They responded to a series of questions concerning the county’s growth, the need for high-paying jobs and affordable housing.
“I feel we need a Master Plan that addresses all the integral needs of Iron County,” Hendricks said. “Roads, water, open space, broadband—they are all elements of plan that we should create with all the stakeholders.”
Brower pointed out that the county’s current Master Plan was created in 1995, “and obviously a lot has changed, and it needs to be updated. We need to gather our resources and listen to our residents—and include everyone.”
Cozzens said water is one of his top concerns, adding that “without water, Iron County has nothing. We need water to ensure our future growth.” Rowley echoed those thoughts, adding that “water and good employment opportunities are the most vital issues we need addressed.”
“A plan for infrastructure is very important,” Bleak said. “It’s key to bringing in companies that can offer steady work and higher wages.”
Jorgenson said she feels “there are things in the county that need to be fixed. We need a better situation for our officers in the Sheriff’s Department, and we need to be prepared to train our citizens for the new jobs that will come into the county.”
“We need to keep government out of our way,” Cozzens said. “We need to reduce business regulations and keep taxes low. And we should offer tax breaks to attract industry.” Rowley agreed, adding “it needs to be much quicker and easier for businesses to come in. I also believe in limited tax incentives.”
Bleak said the county’s economy “can’t just depend on tourism. We should concentrate on jobs in the tech sector. We have a unique opportunity to for some of our citizens to work from their homes in tech jobs.” And Hendricks said this sort of job creation “is something I get stoked about. We’ve all heard of Silicone Slopes along the Wasatch Front. But they also talk about ‘Silicone Spokes,’ those jobs that support the tech industry. We’re prime in Iron County for receiving some of those jobs.”
Regarding affordable housing, Bleak said “home ownership is the backbone of a society. As prices continue to rise, we need to have a plan to help those who want to buy a home.”
“As realtors, we know how important home ownership is,” Hendricks said. “Addressing this need has to be part of a Master Plan.” Brower said that “one of the attractions of Cedar City has been affordable housing, and we’re losing some of that now. It is something we can and should address.”
One other issue they each discussed was the morale of county employees, and the retention rate for keeping them. While wages and benefits are always a factor in any workplace, all agreed that those aren’t the only considerations to take into account.
“There’s more to a job than money,” Rowley said. “I think we all support pay increases as they are earned, and they need to be budgeted.” Cozzens said “employees also need to feel valued and appreciated.” Bleak stated that the county’s retention rate “is actually going up. We’re working right now on a retention/incentive plan for our employees.”
“We have amazing, dedicated county employees,” Hendricks said. “I believe some of them want to see more structure in their jobs, in addition to higher wages and incentives.”
“I agree that it’s not entirely about money,” Brower added. “They need to feel they are part of a team.”
“There’s no reason we can’t do something better for them,” Jorgenson said. “They certainly deserve it.”
The primary election will be held on June 26, but ballots for those wishing to vote by mail will be sent out on or about June 5. Voters can still register, and also cast ballots in person. More information about the elections is available on the county’s website at https://elections.utah.gov/2018-election-information