Van Tassell, Park City’s state senator, to retire after 12 years
State Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, whose district covers Park City and much of Summit County, announced Friday afternoon that he will retire from politics after the conclusion of his third term at the end of 2018.
Van Tassell, first elected in 2006, has spent 12 years in the Senate representing sprawling Senate District 26, which stretches from the Colorado and Wyoming borders to Pinebrook. The district represents a diverse set of interests in Daggett, Duchesne, Uintah, Wasatch and Summit counties.
In an interview Friday, Van Tassell, vice chair of the Senate Executive Appropriations Committee, said his decision not to run for reelection was influenced by his desire to serve the public outside of politics and to spend more time with his family.
“It’s been a great experience, it’s been challenging, it’s been fun,” Van Tassell said. “When I started I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be there maybe two terms.’”
Van Tassell said he was proud of his efforts to maintain his district’s transportation network, secure funding for the National Ability Center and his work with the Park City resort industry, including during the recession. He said efforts to help Park City’s interests tend to have a ripple effect throughout the broader area.
“That’s a market that we want to maintain,” Van Tassell said. “We’ve done a great job of promoting it.”
The senator, who chaired the transportation committee for a number of years, was the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 276, a piece of legislation that Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law in March that reformed the state’s gas tax formula and uses funds raised to maintain roads.
“At least we raised the gas tax enough that we’re taking care of all of our roads, not just the Class 1 roads,” Van Tassell said.
As for the coming session, Van Tassell said he expects preparations for Salt Lake City’s potential Olympic bid to take center stage for Park City.
“We’re also looking at spending some more money on a permanent endowment for the Olympics (facilities), to keep them at world class and at Olympics abilities so that if the Olympics come back, the facilities will be ready to go,” Van Tassell said. “I believe that we will make another run for an Olympics, whether it’s ‘26 or ‘30 we’ll kind of have to see how that goes. The Utah brand is skiing and our winter sports are key.”
Van Tassell said alcohol laws, assisting the Peace House relocation project and maintaining funding for the National Ability Center will also be objectives for the 2018 session.
The race to fill Van Tassell’s seat has already begun, as Joni Crane, the Utah Republican Party vice chair from Vernal, announced her candidacy Tuesday.
“Serious contemplation went into this decision,” Crane said in her announcement. “After consulting with many friends and associates about Senate (District) 26 issues and my experience and qualifications for this position, I was encouraged to become a candidate.”
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