Commission candidates debate jobs, growth and housing

CEDAR CITY – Jobs, housing and growth were some of the issues touched on during a political debate Monday between the six Iron County commission candidates.

The debate, hosted by the Iron County Board of Realtors, was the first one held this political season and joined the candidates from both commission seats.

Jennie Hendricks, Paul Cozzens, Sam Brower and Michelle Jorgenson – opponents in the race for seat B – were all present along with Fred Rowley and incumbent Mike Bleak, both running for seat A. All of the candidates are running as Republicans.

Population numbers for Iron County are expected to hit nearly 100,000 in the next 20 to 30 years. Candidates were asked how they will work to ensure the infrastructure is in place to handle the projected growth.

Hendricks reiterated her promise to create a master plan for Iron County, a commitment she has made while on the campaign trail.

“We’ve got to have a plan for roads. We’ve got to have a plan for water. We’ve got to have a plan for broadband. We’ve got to have a plan for open space and recreation,” Hendricks said. “This is what I’m hearing as I’m out in the county talking to people. It’s really a concern and it’s really something that’s an exciting time, a really exciting time, for Iron County to be able to come together and decide what we want to be in the next 10, 20, 30 years because we’re going to be something. We are growing.”

Cozzens’ campaign has largely focused on the water issue Iron County has contended with for several years. He spoke on this subject during the debate arguing that without water there will be no growth.

“Without water in Iron County we have nothing. Our property values are zero…We have to plan for the future and make sure we have water for our families and our grandchildren and those who want to live here,” Cozzens said. “That’s our most important issue.”

The candidates were asked, if elected, what they would do to attract higher-paying jobs. They were also questioned on whether they would increase the county’s contribution to the economic development office. None of the candidates addressed the second half of the question regarding the contribution except Bleak, who is the incumbent.

“I think there’s always room for expansion especially in an issue that’s so critical,” Bleak said. “If we don’t have that infrastructure built when our population explodes we’re going to be in real trouble. So, I support working more closely with economic development and whatever they need we will really try to accommodate that.”

With the Iron County Sheriff’s Office struggling to retain deputies and correction officers, Jorgenson said she felt that issue needed to be addressed first.

“That is at the front of my mind,” Jorgenson said. “But of course we want to create jobs. Right now we’re still in that situation where we haven’t hit that magic number and we are still seeing more manufacturing jobs than anything. Also, we have to be prepared to train those people once we get those jobs…I would work closely with those people that are stakeholders in the community – the Chamber of Commerce, the planners of the cities, the mayors and those people in creating a better situation for us here in Iron County.”

While wages in Iron County remain lower than the state average, housing costs are rapidly increasing. The candidates were asked if they see a necessity for a local affordable-housing initiative and if so, how would they support it.

Brower said he was attracted to moving to Cedar City from California many years ago due to the affordable housing market the area offered at the time.

“That was one of the things that really attracted me, was the ability for people to own homes and we’re losing that now,” Brower said. “Roosevelt talked about that you could really gage the success of the government by the well-being of the people. We need to attract interest rates and loans and work in construction that will allow people to own their own homes here.”

The last question addressed the issue of employee morale at the county level, which has experienced a decrease in recent years as employees have fought for raises and better benefits.

“Money is important but there’s more to the job than money,” Rowley said. “You see multi-millionaire movie stars step out of contracts because they’re not being treated right, and so money is not everything. These rifts between our agencies can be mended and I’m ready to start that on day one.”

Important Election Dates

  • Primary Election: June 26
  • Mail ballots are mailed to voters: Aound June 5
  • In-person early voting: June 12 – June 22

You can register to vote at the polls on Election Day, but if you register beforehand:

  • May 29: Last day to register to vote by mailing in a registration form.
  • June 19: Last day to register to vote online or at your county clerk’s office.
  • May 30: Last day to change your party affiliation to vote in the primary election.

For more election information, visit the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s website.

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