Governor-Elect Appoints New Rural Affairs Advisor With Focus On Economic Growth
Republican Governor-elect Spencer Cox announced a new position for his incoming administration last week — senior advisor of rural affairs.
Cox has appointed Stephen Lisonbee to the role, who is currently the assistant vice president of the Office of Regional Services at Southern Utah University. Cox campaigned on his farmer background and Lisonbee said this new position shows he’s serious about giving rural Utah a seat at the table.
“This position would really help give rural Utah a voice by representing their communities in those meetings with the governor's cabinet and senior staff to really help align resources and opportunities to raise the profile of those rural issues,” he said.
Lisonbee used to work for Utah’s Workforce Development Division and some of his top priorities are promoting job and economic growth in smaller towns.
“The urban part of Utah is meeting some capacities and so all of our growth opportunities begin to move into the rural parts of the state,” he said.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike is a volunteer on Cox’s transition team and chairs the Rural Matters group, which is recommending policies for the governor-elect to focus on. Pike said former governors have spent time off the Wasatch Front, but he said the Cox administration is going a step further.
“I think this is raising the bar and it's the bar being raised by a governor-elect who still lives in rural Utah, in Sanpete County,” Pike said. “I think he gets it. He's very in tune with the needs.”
Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson is also part of Rural Matters. She said counties focused on mining, farming and recreation are important to the state and have different challenges than other, more urban places.
She said she’s glad there’s someone working directly with the governor who represents her community and others like hers.
“It's just the simple fact that we need a consistent voice with the governor's office that is always focusing on rural issues,” Pearson said.
Lisonbee was born in Delta, Utah and now resides in LaVerkin with his family, where he plans to stay during his appointment.