SPRINGVILLE — Six candidates have filed to run for the Utah County Commissioner position to be vacated by controversial commissioner Greg Graves at the end of the year. Karen Ellingson of Springville is the only woman in the group.
Ellingson shared with Serve Daily insights about her decision to run and her vision for the future of Utah county.
Question: Why did you decide to enter the race?
I care a lot about what happens here in our county and the kind of leadership we have planning for our future. The decisions made by the county impact the lives of over half a million people now, and will shape the way the county grows going forward to over 1.5 million residents. There’s a great potential for our county if the county is managed well. I want to be a part of the solution and take action now that will ensure we’re in a strong position as a whole, including our fiscal situation, while we plan for and navigate the growth. I think it’s time for a change in the commission, and I feel my background, abilities, and skills are a great match for the job.
Question: What sets you apart from other candidates?
Ellingson: I think my experience and background, and the way I approach issues distinguish me from other candidates. My education is in public health and public management, both of which are crucial to the administrative side of being a commissioner. I’ve served in a variety of community assignments, including my current assignment on the planning commission, and I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time as a municipal employee interacting with every city department. From these experiences I have been able to gain a foundational understanding of each area. I have had the chance to see the side of government focused on providing services, and experience the side entrusted with enacting the policies created, as well as working to adjust policy to avoid unintended consequences. I think it’s important to approach decisions with the end in mind, and make choices based on solid data, while being careful to consider the personal impact of decisions on residents and others. Being knowledgeable and experienced is important, but both need to be combined with an ability to work well with people and find solutions that account for the needs and concerns of everyone involved. I am skilled at collaborating with others and really listening. I firmly believe it’s important to work to understand each person’s perspective if you’re going to find the answers that will work. As a commissioner these skills are necessary when working on the legislative side, but also on the administrative side. When setting policy, I will include those who are affected by the policy in the conversation and make sure their concerns and ideas are taken seriously. I will also set a tone of respect in the workplace and make a concerted effort to create safe, and positive environment.
Question: What would you like to accomplish if elected?
Ellingson: Some of the issues I think are important to keep on the forefront are planning, responsible fiscal policy, housing and homelessness, and social issues like domestic violence, drug abuse, and suicide. All of these issues are not only important for the county, but have an impact on our economic strength. As a commissioner I want to ensure we are working with other public and private entities to address these issues and keep the conversations at the forefront. We can’t solve everything at the county level, but there are some steps we can take, and by increasing awareness we can have an influence on issues receiving the attention and funding necessary for each to be tackled. We must plan now for all the implications of growth. If we fail to plan well now and continually create a road map for how we want to grow, the growth will still happen but with consequences that will be more difficult to address later. Water availability and transportation are just two serious pieces of planning to consider. Where will funding come from for adjusting roads to handle heavier traffic volumes, and where should the roads be, for example. What measures can we take over the next 5-10 years to manage our water usage better to make sure there’s enough to go around when the county is twice the size of the current population? Business and residential growth, as well as our current agricultural needs will all suffer if water and transportation are not well planned for.