Election 2018: Candidates hope plans for water, growth will earn them seat on Washington County Commission

Democrat Robert Ford and Republican Gil Almquist are facing off against each other for seat A on the Washington County Commission in the general election Nov. 6, 2018 | Photos courtesy of Robert Ford and Gil Almquist, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two candidates from either side of the political aisle are vying to fill the seat on the Washington County Commission left by Commissioner Zachary Renstrom, who decided not to run for reelection this year.

Democrat Robert Ford and Republican Gil Almquist are both running for seat A on the Washington County Commission. Whoever is elected will serve on the three-person commission alongside Dean Cox and Victor Iverson.

In order to help voters get to know who’s running and what they intend to do if elected, St. George News presented the candidates with a short series of questions. From sharing what they believe may an interesting fact about themselves to what their first push may be if elected, the answers are listed below.


Robert Ford, of Rockville, is running as a Democrat for seat A on the Washington County Commission | Photo courtesy of Robert Ford, St. George News

Democrat Robert Ford is a conservationist and photographer from Rockville and is currently a member of the Rockville/Springdale Fire Protection District Board and Rockville Planning Commission.

If elected, what will be the first ordinance you’ll hope to pass, or what current ordinance would you would like to see amended or repealed?

Ford said his first push as county commissioner would be to expand the number of elected officials on the commission if he’s elected.

“Particularly with the growth in this county and dramatic differences in different areas, I think we ought to move from a three-seat county commission to a five-seat commission that would be elected by subdistricts to better represent diversity in the county,” Ford said.

Many people in small towns across Washington County don’t feel like they have good representation in the county government, which is what Ford hopes to change if he’s elected to serve on the county commission, he said.

Which one of these issues do you think matters most to Washington County voters: growth, public lands or water?

“Growth and water are connected,” Ford said. “I think there’s a lot we can do on managing our growth and working toward conservation with a long-term view of maybe some water from Lake Powell might be helpful.”

While water is important to voters, the high cost of the Lake Powell Pipeline is not something Ford said he wants to pass on to future generations of people within the county.

“We’re going to have to work with the state and the surrounding states to fill the water demands for our community,” he said. “The way the climate is changing, I think it’s very likely there’s going to be a need for negotiating what water would really be in Lake Powell and if that would be a solution for us.”

What’s something interesting about yourself?

“I’m an academic who for many years has worked in policy analysis, both in the nonprofit sector and in the state department,” Ford said. “I focused on rural development, particularly water and drought issues.”

He’s also holds a doctorate in earth science/physical geology and is a photographer who has traveled the world.


Gil Almquist, of St. George, is running as a Republican for seat A on the Washington County Commission | Photo courtesy of Gil Almquist, St. George News

Republican Gil Almquist is a landscaping contractor from St. George who previously served on the St. George City Council and St. George Planning Commission.

If elected, what will be the first ordinance you’ll hope to pass, or what current ordinance would you would like to see amended or repealed?

“There’s a property tax issue right now that doesn’t affect a lot of people, but sometimes they’re sent in late,” Almquist said. “Even though they’re mailed on time down here, the mail goes to Salt Lake City. I would love to have an amnesty period where if somebody was notified that the taxes on their property were late by a day or two, but it’s postmarked in Salt Lake City, then that tells me that they actually mailed it from down here.”

Giving people an amnesty period on sending in their property taxes may not a big issue, but it’s an important one, Almquist said. If elected county commissioner, he said he’s not going to bring “sweeping changes” because that would undercut the work of the previous and current county commissioners that he supports.

Which one of these issues do you think matters most to Washington County voters: growth, public lands or water?

“I actually conserve quite a bit of water myself, but I know conservation isn’t going to get us all the way to where we need to be as far as providing enough for the growth,” he said.

Growth and water are important, but they can’t be developed without the necessary infrastructure, Almquist said. He said he’d like to improve roads in the county and develop the northern corridor to address the growth coming into the county.

“I’d like to see a county-cooperative effort so it’s not just cities on their own when it comes to transportation,” he said.

What’s something interesting about yourself?

“I love Civil War history and learning about states-rights issues during that period,” Almquist said.

A lot of people also don’t know how long Almquist has been in Southern Utah, he said, but he graduated from Dixie College in 1980, earned a master’s degree in geography and business, and owned and operated a landscaping business for 35 years.

“I actually have a lot of red sand in my shoes.”

Resources

Candidate websites and Facebook pages

For other Election 2018 stories, click here.

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • NickDanger October 13, 2018 at 11:14 am

    When it comes to St. George, I’m a one-issue voter. Show me a candidate who demonstrates even slightly that he recognizes the problems associated with growth, and that they aren’t limited to providing utilities for all comers but in fact may also include the loss of this area’s unique charm, and I don’t care if he’s a Democrat or Republican. Both of these guys talk like they’re looking to water Jack’s magic beans then just step back and watch. Next?

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