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Politics & Government
KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Washington County Residents Sign On To Bipartisan Petition In Hopes Of Expanding Commission

A photo of taken in the crowd at a Washington County Commission meeting.
Lexi Peery
/
KUER
A Washington County Commission meeting from December 2019. Some residents are hoping to add four more seats to the commission.

Some residents in Washington County are filing a petition to expand the number of seats on the commission, and if it’s approved they’ll move on to gathering signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

There are currently three full-time commissioners in Washington County. Allen Davis, who ran for a seat in 2018, is working with others to try to expand that to seven part-time members.

Davis, who is a Republican, said the effort is bipartisan. He said the petition has nothing to do with the party someone is with but rather the form of government that best represents them. He said it’s about giving more of a voice to people throughout the county.

“We just need some more representation, rural Washington County [doesn’t] even have a commissioner. They're totally ignored,” he said. “I think they would be more responsive to the people if we had seven part-timers elected from districts across the county.”

Commission Chair Gil Almquist said his job description involves working with the unincorporated parts of the county — not incorporated cities in the area.

“We already represent those areas, and if you look at my track record, I spend all my time in the unincorporated county from Veyo to Pine Valley to Rockville,” Almquist said. “If [the petition signers] want diversity, they just need to look at the track record. We already spend our time out there.”

Almquist also said the cost of a seven-member commission will be far greater than the current set up.

This effort to expand the commission has been in the works for some time, according to Davis. He said they held off on introducing it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chuck Goode, the Washington County Democratic chair, discussed the petition at the party’s convention this weekend, according to St. George News. Goode, who also signed the petition, said an expanded commission can help manage the growth that the area is experiencing.

“Seven heads are better than three,” he said.

Lisa Rutherford is registered as an independent voter and signed on to the petition. She said she’s supportive of the effort to expand the number of seats because she doesn’t like that the current elected officials seem to be in “lock step.”

“I understand that some people are concerned about growing government and that type of thing,” she said. “But we need to have enough people, in my opinion, to have differing ideas and, you know, exchange of ideas on how things should be done.”

Davis said he and five others submitted the ballot initiative petition last month. However, county officials said there were issues with the original filing and Davis said he is planning to resubmit soon.

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