By Kelsey Keener
CEDAR CITY–Four County Commissioner candidates participated in a debate held at North Cedar Elementary School last Thursday evening.
Candidates for Commission Seat A Fred Rowley and Michael Bleak, as well as candidates for Commission Seat B Jennie Hendricks and Paul Cozzens participated in the debate, organized by Traci Sullivan and moderated by County Assessor Cindy Bulloch.
The first question posed to candidates was one they submitted for themselves. Hendricks was asked why she sees working relationships as a key to being a successful commissioner. She said being a Commissioner involves advocacy and working with legislators on local as well as state levels.
“These are real relationships that move the goals of Iron County forward and create an environment that is financially as well as legislatively beneficial for our community,” she said. “County commissioners must also have a good working relationship with the stakeholders and with the residents, the citizens, the voters here in Iron County. An effective commissioner is one who is able to listen to the community, understand the issues and bring people together to create those solutions.”
Cozzens was asked what experiences in his life have prepared him for the role of Iron County Commissioner. He said his father instilled in him a good work ethic, he has served on Cedar City Council for seven years, and started his own business in 1987.
“I believe that someone that would make a good commissioner is someone that’s had to be in business and survive and make payroll and do those things and actually live under the regulation and rules that are there so we can appreciate what we can do to lessen those and make it easier on businesses,” he said.
Bleak was asked what efforts his has made to address the need for retention and recruiting programs in the county during his first term as County Commissioner, and what he will continue to do. He said one of the first things he did was meet with department heads and figure out a way to restructure how Iron County employees are compensated, and that a raise based on a formula was able to be distributed in the past year. In addition, signing bonuses have been approved in order to save money and time in training.
“I really feel that the most important asset we have in Iron County is our employees,” Bleak said. “We are continuing to work to finalize the plan to revamp the entire system which will make Iron County a better place to work, which will provide you with better services.”
Rowley was asked about his dislike for campaign signs, and he related a childhood story to explain it. As a teenager, he was hauling hay in Arizona when the trailer broke and 200 bales of hay fell off. In 110 degree heat, he had to reload the hay onto a different trailer with a campaign sign staring at him the entire time. He has disliked them ever since, and said he believes in a clean city.
“I believe in a clean and tight city and that was part of my Sparkle campaign was to clean the city up, make it up a nice place, so the 200,000 people that came here would say this would be a good place to recreate or vacate or live and work,” he said.
Bulloch excused candidates Sam Brower and Michelle Jorgenson from the debate. Ben Batti read a prepared statement from Jorgenson.
Cozzens was asked about his decision to resign from his City Council position if he is elected to County Commission. He said he was originally undecided on the issue, but he took the time to decide whether he would resign that position or not and ultimately decided to give up his City Council seat for County Commission if he is elected.
Hendricks responded by saying there should not be a concentration of power and elected officials should only hold one office at a time. She was then asked is it’s possible that her endorsements from commissioners of adjacent counties are the result of the belief that she can be manipulated. Hendricks said she did not believe that.
“My intention as your county commissioner is to only ever advocate for Iron County,” she said. “I love Iron County, I love the people, I love the area; it is where my heart is. My belief as to why I have been endorsed by our surrounding county commissioner is that they realize the importance of being able to work together.”
Cozzens rebutted by saying that he only sought endorsements from Iron County and the people he will represent if elected.
Rowley was questioned about his postings on social media regarding prairie dogs and inquiries he received about the recent Special County Commission meeting which discussed a prairie dog habitat. He explained that he makes videos called FredRo About IronCo and posts them to various websites, and referred inquiries to the video in that series he made about prairie dogs. He believes the commissioners made their decision about the prairie dog habitat to make things easier for landowners in Iron County.
Bleak was addressed regarding his view of the need for retention programs in the county and asked how he plans to balance priorities like that with the budget. He said county commissioners are accountable for all tax dollars spent by the county, and that it is necessary to make sure funds are going to take care of other issues as well
Cozzens was asked about his decision to gather signatures for his campaign, and Bleak was asked if he concern for the budget led to micromanagement of county departments. Rowley was also asked about what he could as a county commissioner to secure water for Iron County that isn’t already being done by the Water Conservancy District and the state. All candidates were asked about the recent eminent domain case that Cedar City Council was faced with.
In his closing statement, Cozzens said he is committed to selling his business and believes County Commissioner is a full-time job.
“My life experience has given me the opportunity to be ready to serve.” he said. “My record shows that I can get along with anybody and get great things done.”
Hendricks closed by saying she will bring her experience as a business owner to the Iron Count Commission and is willing to commit to the time is takes to be a commissioner, and reiterated the needs for a master plan.
“One of the reasons I feel like it’s so important to have a master plan is as our county grows, and it is growing, we need to have a way that we’ve agreed on as a community to preserve our culture and preserve our heritage,” she said. “I will be that fierce protector of Iron County and what makes it Iron County and what makes all of us want to live here.”
Bleak discussed his experience as a commissioner so far, and said it has given him the tools to be successful in another term.
“When I took office I said right up front: ‘I don’t know everything, this is going to be a very steep learning curve and I don’t by any means think that I have all the answers,’” he said. “Coming up on a year and a half later, that learning curve was something else and it’s something I believe that I’ve conquered very successfully.”
Rowley said he is running for commissioner because he wants to make the world a better place. He discussed his time serving as Mayor of Santa Clara and his ability to work with people to solve problems. When he started as Mayor of Santa Clara, he was able to get two lawsuits dropped by meeting with people in their homes and settling the issues at hand with them.
“The Public Works Director of Santa Clara said people can go into the office with mayor Rowley boiling mad, when they come they may not agree but at least they’re calmed down (and) they understand why he did what he did,” he said. “I can work together with people.”