To the citizens of Tooele County, Utah:
My name is Curtis Wells and I’m the vice-chair of the Grand County Council. In 1992, Grand County changed from a three-member county commission to a 7-member council with a hired administrator.
Our county’s plan was lauded as a work of art and reads like a democratic dream. A “citizen government” where commissioners are split into part-time council-members, a full-time manager to carry out the day-to-day executive responsibilities, an increase in demand for Special Service Districts so the county can essentially delegate to and the public can be more involved in the county’s decision-making and operations. With five or seven council-members we’ll have a more diverse council and we’ll have to pay them less. It was sold as the answer to all of our political and economic problems.
A quarter-century later the results are politically or rationally indisputable. Of the seven council-members, only three to four of them read their material before the meetings and pull all of the weight. Because we’re not in the county building, or near the operations by design, we’re not knowledgeable of county business or services; subsequently we’re treated like visitors by the departments and functions we’re supposed to be making decisions for.
Like many rural areas, we lack turnover in our essential public positions. Our county administrator outlasts council members and soon the tail wags the dog, council after council. Our special service districts are responsible for large portions of county operations with a low level of service, poor financial management, and their meetings suffer from poor attendance by their own volunteer board members and the public.
Millions of dollars of mineral lease money and sales tax are distributed to these districts on an annual basis without any real accountability and responsiveness. We struggle to find members of our community that are willing to run for county council seats let alone make tough decisions or lead the county through difficult times.
I’ve worked tirelessly to transition Grand County back to a county commission. We will realize that goal by 2021. Economies change, times change, our challenges and opportunities change. It’s important in Utah that we outfit our counties with a structure and system of government that allows for productivity, efficiency, and accountability. That is a county commission. The grass is not greener. Please learn from our experiment gone wrong. Your citizens deserve better.
Curtis Wells is a 6th generation Moab, Utah, resident. He’s an entrepreneur and is currently serving as the vice-chair and an at-large representative on the Grand County Council.