Byron Ellis for Commissioner

Garfield County, Utah

Why I’m Running for County Commissioner

Until March, Garfield County saw a prolonged period of prosperity: new construction, tourism spending, increased sales tax revenues, Federal and State grants and assistance, outside investment. Then COVID-19 gut-punched us. Suddenly, the tourist season was upended, and small and large businesses were broadsided. County revenue projections, assuming our county does such things, were out the window.

What the COVID-19 crisis exposed was the urgent need for Garfield County to diversify its economy. We cannot rely exclusively on tourism. Extractive industries and agriculture will never make up the difference.

In a crisis, the primary responsibility of government, at all levels, is to coordinate, facilitate, and help find solutions to problems caused by the crisis. Only our governing bodies have the resources, contacts, and access required to tap and work with private industry, citizens, nonprofits, and public agencies to provide the necessary materials, assistance, and expertise needed for a comprehensive and successful crisis response.

I have 25 years of private industry and 10 years of municipal government management experience. I know how to get things done under challenging circumstances. Important tasks we faced before COVID-19 were balancing growth while preserving our beloved western lifestyle; diversifying our economy; finding common ground on divisive issues; and ensuring the safety and prosperity of ALL Garfield County residents. We still face these issues; however, I will also focus on new opportunities and redirect priorities that have been overlooked, including:

  • Housing Crisis. We have a well-documented housing crisis, and especially affordable housing. This affects teacher retention, seasonal workers, business recruitment, and the ability of young families to establish themselves in our county. This is our REAL “state of emergency.” Our county can’t move forward without adequate, livable, and affordable places to live.

As your commissioner, I will work to solve this problem. I will propose the establishment of a county-wide task force to evaluate our current and future housing needs, consider options, develop a plan, and dedicate resources to solve this.

  • Diversify Economy. Tourism is important to Garfield County, but we must diversify our economy. Higher education is an industry on its own. We can train and educate our children and adult residents right here. The most vibrant communities in the country are also college towns.

As your commissioner, I will investigate the feasibility of establishing a satellite campus or other higher education facility in Garfield County.

  • Growth and change. Garfield County needs to do both well.

As your commissioner, I will ensure Garfield County’s General Plan provides a roadmap to a better future. It needs to address economic development, housing availability, improved transportation, county-wide internet and cell services, improved county emergency services, health and safety resources, workforce development and education, re-envisioned agricultural opportunities, and an inclusive, objective evaluation of our public lands access and usage.

  • Fiscal Responsibility. Residents of Garfield County have a right to understand how their county government operates and how it spends their tax dollars. At present, our county commissioners never discuss, explain, disclose or update the public on the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on legal and consultation fees. Residents are not allowed to ask questions or make comment during any portion of regular commission meetings. This is wrong.

As your commissioner, I will work to ensure that public information remains public, that any resident who wants to speak will be heard, and that all county government records are up to date, accurate, and available.

When I am elected commissioner, I will treat all Garfield County residents respectfully and without favoritism. It’s time for a new era of cooperation, transparency, and inclusiveness in Garfield County!

How do you see Garfield County moving forward? Connect with me on Facebook and give me your thoughts.

Byron Ellis

Or mail check payable to: Ellis For Commissioner to: P.O. Box 44, Escalante, UT 84726