By Traci Bishop and Julie Johansen
Meeting with Emery County Republican Chairman Tom Hansen on Friday, Jon Huntsman, candidate for Utah’s next governor, voiced his concerns for rural Utah. He stated that his platform has three main points, including dealing with growth that is coming to Utah, finding more opportunities for economic development in rural Utah and fighting the mental health crisis.
When questioned about leaving the governor’s office to become an ambassador for President Donald Trump, Huntsman stated, “I was taught to say yes when asked by the president to serve.” He further remarked it was a very hard decision but for diplomatic reasons, he was needed. He served for two years to the day before returning home, which is the normal time for an ambassador to serve as well as the time he had signed up for.
Huntsman explained that he plans to run a straight-forward campaign. One of the things he would like to see happen to aid the economic progress of Carbon and Emery counties is the improvement of Highway 6 to a four-lane highway. He also feels that the new tax law is very unfair to rural Utah, including the food tax and the gas tax.
Preceding his meeting in Emery County, Hunstman began his day in Carbon County at the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center located on USU Eastern’s campus.
Huntsman met with familiar faces and elected officials such as Price City Mayor Mike Kourianos, Price City Councilwoman Amy Knott-Jespersen, Carbon County Commissioners Larry Jensen and Tony Martines, Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood, Castleview Hospital CEO Greg Cook and CFO Ryan Pugh, and more.
Largely voiced as a concern during this meeting was Highway 6 and the dangers it imposes. Mayor Kourianos stressed that changes would need to be made as it keeps many opportunities from the area, such as students coming to the college. Commissioner Jensen echoed this sentiment, stating that when a company is looking to relocate, a highlight of what they want is access to a good highway. Commissioner Jensen stated that he believes that the area is often dismissed by many due to that.
Following this, the expansion of Intermountain Electronics was discussed, including the need to tackle the issue of older housing and creating living spaces for the newcomers. Mental health, school safety, the tax reform and more were also discussed during the meeting.
Following this enlightenment by the elected officials and other faces of the community, Huntsman welcomed a small group to the Alumni Room for a discussion. Huntsman stated that he believes the most pressing issues in the state are growth, assisting the counties that are not doing as well as others and mental health. He stressed that there has been a collected failure in the state on mental health.
Huntsman stressed that he does not pretend to have the answers. Rather, in government, individuals are brought together collectively to try and make it happen. Huntsman concluded his visit by opening the floor to answer questions for those in attendance.