Democrat Miller, Republican Kohler vie to represent Park City at the Statehouse
The race for House District 54 in the state Legislature features two Wasatch County residents, but beyond the place they call home, Democrat Meaghan Miller and Republican Mike Kohler seem to have little else in common.
Miller is a nonprofit executive director and young mother who was narrowly defeated in a bid to oust Rep. Tim Quinn in 2018. She has experience working in the health care sector and for nonprofits and said she believes the role of government is to offer a hand up for people when they need it.
Kohler is a lifelong dairyman who has been involved in politics for decades, either as an elected official or a lobbyist for agricultural interests. He has advocated for smaller government and says that his experience would enable him to help people from day one.
The district covers Wasatch County and parts of Summit County, including Park City. Quinn did not run for reelection.
Miller said she and her family recently moved from Park City and that representing the more left-leaning population in western Summit County would come naturally.
“I think I walk in multiple circles very well,” she said. “I understand the more rural values of Wasatch County, and I also understand and emulate some of the more liberal values of Summit County.”
Kohler said that he would work to represent Summit County’s interest at the Statehouse by acquainting himself with the people involved in making policy here.
He said he has experience working with the Summit County Council from his time as a Wasatch County commissioner and councilor, and that he would strive to form relationships with government officials in Park City and Summit County.
He said his goal would be to “know their issues and (become) aware of some of their policies, how they’re trending and what they want to accomplish.”
“(I’ll) be wide open for anyone to talk to me,” he said.
Both candidates offered land-use law reform as one of their higher priorities. That has been a hot-button issue in Summit County of late due to Hideout’s controversial attempt to annex land across county lines.
Kohler later clarified that his No. 1 priority would be the economy.
“No matter what we need or would like to do, if we don’t get the economy up and running again, financial problems will affect everything we want to do,” he wrote in a follow-up message to The Park Record.
He added that managing growth is a priority, and that mental health issues are of particular importance.
In addition to cleaning up land-use codes, Miller said education is a primary focus and that the Legislature should help school districts provide top-notch education in a state with a very young population.
“We need to be able to provide tech resources, we need to be able to provide STEM resources,” said Miller, who is the executive director of EATS Park City. “We need to be able to pay teachers wages to allow them to live in communities where they teach to really deepen that community impact for both.”
She also said she is frustrated with the Republican party’s supermajority in both chambers at the Statehouse and that, currently, a handful of people in power can do what they want. She cited the example of the inland port controversy in Salt Lake County.
“I’m very stubborn and opinionated, so when I got frustrated by the state of affairs, I didn’t just whine and gripe, I said alright, I should get involved,” Miller said.
She described herself as non-partisan, indicating that policies should be evaluated on their merits rather than influenced by politics.
Kohler said that in his years around government, it became clear to him that those on the inside could accomplish more than those on the outside. He said he hopes to bring a common sense approach to the Legislature and to moderate some of the extremes.
He added that he is hoping for the opportunity to help others.
“I’m at a point now where my experience lends itself to helping people,” he said. “It’s really enjoyable when some little guy who is seemingly lost and has no power, and you can help them. It’s a good feeling.”
The November election will be conducted largely through mail-in balloting. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 23, with ballots slated to be mailed to registered voters three weeks before Election Day Nov. 3. For more information, visit the Summit County Clerk’s website at summitcounty.org/281/Voter-Registration-Elections.
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