My endorsements in Iron County Republican primaries: Bleak and Hendricks for Commission, Dotson for Attorney, Anderson for Sheriff

By Jesse Harris

In the month leading up to the Iron County Republican Convention, I’ve had the pleasure and duty to meet the various candidates for county offices in the capacity of a county delegate. With the convention completed on Saturday, now comes the time for all registered Republicans to determine who is both best suited to the job and will best represent the party. In this heavily Republican area, the party nominee is all but guaranteed to win in the general election making this decision all the more important. To that end, I’d like to offer my own personal endorsement of candidates in contested primary races.

The Issues for Iron County

As a fast-growing county in a fast-growing state, Iron County is at a point where it will soon pass from being a rural county with a small city to being a small micropolitan area. Water is obviously a top concern, especially as there are very few additional water resources in our dry area and significant agricultural use. But we also have to worry about planning for transportation needs (such as a new west side beltway), maintaining county facilities such as the jail, and economic development. Current projections are that population will double from 50K to 100K within about 30 years. Much of this will be in unincorporated areas relying on county services.

It’s also been a common refrain that because of the number of hats a county commissioner wears that it should be a full-time job. There’s also a fair amount of pressure to increase the commission from three seats to five to better distribute the responsibilities and perhaps allow for more part-time participation.

County Commission A

Incumbent Mike Bleak was elected to this seat about a year ago to fill a vacancy and is running against Fred Rowley, a former city councilman from Cedar City. Neither secured a 60% majority at a convention so both will be on the primary ballot. I think that both candidates have a pretty good grasp on the issues facing Iron County, but Bleak is more willing to learn about solutions and gather more information before taking action. I also believe that Bleak’s current experience in the seat, albeit brief, will mean a smoother transition going forward. I’d encourage Republicans in Iron County to vote for Michael Bleak in County Commission A.

County Commission B

As a race with no incumbent, this one was far more crowded with five total candidates. Both Paul Cozzens, a city councilman from Cedar City, and Jennie Hendricks, a realtor, advanced from the convention while Michelle Jorgenson, a board member of the Iron County School District, and Sam Brower, a private investigator and author, collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot despite elimination in a convention.

I was not surprised to see both Cozzens and Hendricks prevail at a convention. Both have an excellent grasp of the issues and a solid history of working in local government to solve problems. Ultimately, though, it came down to who I thought would be best positioned to deal with the changing demographics that will come with growth and, despite my hesitations at another realtor in public office (because holy cow does that profession have outsized representation and power), I think Hendricks will be more flexible on solutions. I’m also entirely confident that Cozzens will continue his excellent work on water issues no matter the election outcome. Based on this, I am endorsing Jennie Hendricks in County Commission B.

County Attorney

It was a big surprise to see incumbent Scott Garrett withdraw from the race during his convention speech. He chose to endorse Chad Dotson, his employee at the office, who went on to win at the convention. Scott Burns, himself a former holder of the office, collected signatures and will be forcing a primary.

Something that has impressed me when talking to candidates for county attorney is the focus on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. This is a strong departure from the norm of candidates trying to talk about how tough they are and promises to lock up as many criminals as possible. Well, except for Scott Burns. He seems stuck in the old “law and order” mentality that’s started to crack under pressure as drug issues have spread to affect more people across socioeconomic and racial boundaries. Despite his impressive resume, I don’t think we need an attorney who’s so stuck in the past. Because of this, I think that we’d be well-served by voting for Chad Dotson in the primary election.

County Sheriff

Every single one of the four candidates for office will be on the primary ballot. While Ken Carpenter secured his place at the convention, the three other candidates also sought and obtained signatures for their spot.

As with the county attorney’s race, I was impressed at the focus on rehabilitation and “light touch” policing policies, a welcome change coming from the law enforcement side. I also feel like there’s a general push back toward community policing and actively seeking to earn the support of the public rather than automatically expecting it. As the manager of the sheriff’s office, whoever wins the election will be propagating this culture throughout.

Being a manager, though, involves more than this. The ICSO is very short-staffed, often with just two patrol officers covering the entire county. This includes the remote areas of Beryl, Modena, and Hamlin Valley which can involve up to a five hour round trip for a single call. The jail is about thirty years old, has maintenance issues, and is running at capacity. The pay scale for new officers is such that turnover is high as nearby departments offer much higher rates of pay, something more expensive than paying higher wages due to training costs.

Based on researching and talking to candidates, I feel that Caleb Anderson would fulfill this managerial role in the best possible way. He has a light touch style that trusts employees to take charge without being actively told what to do and an understanding of the issues facing the department.

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