The Salina Area Chamber of Commerce hosted incumbent Garth ‘Tooter’ Ogden at the second of their ‘meet the county commissioner candidate’ meeting held Thursday, May 19.
Ogden said one of his unique qualifications for re-election is his experience in the position and the fact that he is a key member of the Community Impact Board (CIB), which is vital to Sevier County, and Rural Utah.
“If I’m not elected, we’ll lose that seat,” said Ogden. “The last person to sit on the CIB board was Ralph Okerlund, and that’s been a long time ago. It is vital to our area, and all rural areas, that someone from there sits on the board. Some don’t know where Salina is, and it’s a common theme among northerners that anything south of Santaquin just doesn’t exist. CIB funds are vital to our area. I’ve worked closely with the local mayors to help them get the CIB funds for their projects at a good loan/grant balance- what they can afford, and at a very low, if not zero, interest rate.”
Mayor Jed Maxwell said in the past 4.5 years he’s been in office, the CIB, with Ogden’s assistance, has helped fund five projects for the city, including the remodel of the Blackhawk, their new building, their sewer project, the swimming pool, and two new fire trucks, and expressed his gratitude for Ogden’s dedication to the area.
“I was elected to sit on that board by Former Governor Gary Herbert,” said Ogden. “It’s quite an honor; I was recently nominated to serve another term on the board, and it will be approved by Governor Cox now.”
In addition to the assistance Ogden has provided by serving on the CIB Board, he acknowledged housing, transportation, and water are big concerns for everyone, and another is taxes.
“We all struggle with paying taxes,” he said. “And until you’ve been in that situation, it’s hard to understand. It’s like being at a baseball game- everyone in the stands is a better coach; why isn’t he playing, he’s a better player, etc., but until you’re in the driver’s seat, you really don’t know how it’s going to be. There are a lot of things out of our control.”
He said several years ago the county cut 16 jobs, at roughly $60,000/year plus benefits and retirement, as well as cut bond expenses and interest rates, saving the county over $800,000. He said the current commissioners have “a good thing going” and really care about the community and are doing the very best they can to serve, build, and protect the county.
He said CARES money allocated to the county has been used at the Blackhawk, to upgrade senior citizen meals on wheels vehicles, and for local law enforcement/EMTs/fire departments. Currently they’re working with the cities to update their transportation plans, and in addition to quarterly meetings with the mayors, they all have his phone number and are in constant contact with each other.
Another passion of Ogden’s is the non-maintained roads in the county that are constantly under threat by the Federal Government and/or those moving in. He said 76% of Sevier County is owned by the Federal Government, and it is his fear that in the future we’ll be saying “Look at that beautiful mountain, it’s a pity we can’t get up there”. He said the cattlemen keep getting threatened and many want to close public access roads, but he’s passionate about doing more to protect our way of life.
He praised the Balloon Festival committee for their successful event that continually grows, saying “they do an absolute, fantastic job” and pledged tourism dollars from the county to help continue the tradition. Tourism is up in the county, which makes funding available for activities such as these.
The Chamber’s next meeting will be held Thursday, June 2, 12:00 noon, at El Mexicano Restaurant. Candidate Greg Jensen will be in attendance.