Summit County Council Voter Guide: Canice Harte vs. Malena Stevens
With no Republican running for Summit County Council Seat C, the winner of the June 30 Democratic primary will serve in office, barring a successful write-in campaign this fall. The Park Record asked the two candidates to share their views on some of the important issues in an effort to ensure voters are informed when they decide who will represent them on the County Council.
For more information about the election, including how unaffiliated voters can request a primary ballot, click here.
Please describe your background and why you want to serve on the Summit County Council.
Malena Stevens: I am running for Summit County Council because it is important that we retain diverse skillsets on our Council to better represent all residents. Kim Carson has been a key contributor to the County Council for almost eight years because of her background in education, social service, and community wellness. She has been thoughtful in her approach and steady in her resolve; electing me retains a similar skillset focused on social services and community wellness. Because I have experience as a first responder in this community, I understand systemic issues and individual struggles. Through working with women, men, and children who have been victims of violent crimes—both in Park City and other areas of Summit County—I have gained perspective regarding how policy impacts individual lives.
While working for Park City Police Department, I also managed government budgets, received my Master’s in Public Administration, chaired the Domestic Violence Coalition, participated in the Behavioral Assessment Committee, and served two terms on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, including as chair. Because I have participated in these endeavors simultaneously—while raising a young child—I understand the nature of interconnected issues, and the struggles of working families within our county.
Canice Harte: I have lived in Summit County for 14 years with my wife Katy Wang and our two young daughters who attend our local public schools. Service above self has always been important to me. I currently serve our community as a Rotarian, a Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner (7+ years), and a board member of Friends of Summit County Search and Rescue.
During my time in the Marine Corps and as an executive in the Outdoor Industry, I have led teams from diverse backgrounds and cultures. My goal has always been to find common ground to achieve collective wins. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve also had to innovate and develop creative solutions to novel problems with limited resources.
I am committed to the success of this community. I was raised by a single mom in affordable housing. I know how important it is to have a strong social safety net and to ensure that the success of our community benefits everyone. My experiences as a team leader, strategic thinker, entrepreneur, creative problem solver and innovator – as well as my deep love for and commitment to this community and its future – are what Summit County needs right now.
How do you judge the County Council’s COVID-19 response – what have councilors done well or poorly? If cutting staffing or programming becomes necessary, how would you decide what to cut?
Stevens: I appreciate the time and attention our current council has taken to understand, communicate, and act to mitigate Covid-19 impacts for our community. As part of their meetings, ongoing and increasing budget cuts have been discussed in detail, and Council has been proactive communicating with the public because the budget impacts every aspect of our local government.
I will work closely with individual departments to fully understand the effects of specific budget cuts. Holding internal trainings to cut travel, extending equipment replacement schedules, and decreasing other discretionary spending creates immediate savings. Cutting department personnel should be the last resort because of impacts to individual lives and the loss of important institutional knowledge, which would challenge our ability to recover well. Budgeting in government is challenging during economic downturns because governments have more, not less, people requiring services, and we must be prepared for this increase; our personnel will be critical.
Harte: We’re fortunate to have had a world class County Health Department in place at the outset of the epidemic. I respect the strong and decisive leadership displayed by the County Manager, County Health Department, County Councilors and Municipal Governments. Their clear guidance and early decision making prevented many deaths.
Assuming COVID-19 will be with us for some time, it is going to be important to find creative ways to keep businesses operational while limiting the spread of the disease. We are well positioned to protect the safety of our workers, our citizens and our guests as we begin to open back up again.
There is no doubt that belt-tightening will be necessary. We must preserve essential “life, health and safety” functions, while being willing to limit spending on those things which we value but may not be able to afford in the short term.
Is a bus rapid transit line a priority for the county? Do you think it’s appropriate to spend an estimated $25 million dollars on the project, or would another transportation solution be more prudent?
Stevens: I am in favor of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a means to address our traffic issues and gaps in transportation. Summit County performed a lengthy study to determine the community’s locally preferred alternative for transportation, which included a robust public involvement piece. As a result of this process, Summit County determined the BRT was the best solution for the county at this time. The county has received state transportation grants and will likely receive federal transportation grants, which will decrease the cost to the community. These projects are expensive, and Summit County is currently working on an environmental sustainability study to ensure that the BRT is built to last and has minimal impact to our environment. It is also important that we pursue incremental improvements to our transportation issues, such as with the Traffic Communication Center technology, as we continue pursuing the more expensive infrastructure solutions.
Harte: Quality of life in our county is at a tipping point and we cannot pretend that our roads will not get more crowded in the future. With a potential Olympics on the horizon, we have an opportunity to access Federal Funds to provide tourists and residents more accessible transportation options.
Bus rapid transit is a great interim solution that works incredibly well and should be explored further. The end goal is to create a system that is easier to use and faster than the alternative of driving your car.
We need to look at the rider experience from the time they leave their home to when they arrive at their destination. Standing in the middle of the road waiting for a bus in the middle of Winter is not going to work.
We need to look at this holistically and create a comprehensive regional transportation solution.
Of the five current county councilors, only one resides on the East Side. Both you and your opponent are residents of the Snyderville Basin. How would you ensure the council represents the interests of the entire county?
Stevens: Growing up in a small town focused on agriculture, I understand the desire to retain community culture while working to economically diversify. I have been meeting with community and political leaders from the East Side of Summit County to gain additional insight into their specific economic and social concerns. The only way to represent the needs and views of the entire county is through first listening. Through conversations with citizens throughout Summit County it is clear that the East and West sides have the same ultimate goal: to preserve quality of life. Though there are differences in approach the intent is the same. When elected, I will continue meeting with citizens and leaders on the East Side of the county to gain a fuller understanding regarding ongoing concerns. My focus on public service and collaboration will be an asset in serving the needs of the entire county.
Harte: We must preserve the rich cultural heritage of Eastern Summit County as it reflects the roots of Summit County.
It is important to listen to the needs and desires of the East side of our County and to represent those equally along with the needs of the greater community. Trust is a key to building a lasting relationship and my first course of action will be to listen and work with the residents of the East Side and the local municipal governments.
I already spend a significant amount of my time in the East side working as a Board Member of Friends of Summit County Search and Rescue and personally recreating. Please know that I’m available to share a meal with you and talk about your concerns at the Road Island Diner, Denise’s, the Mirror Lake Diner or The Notch. Just reach out and I’ll be there.
Officials have consistently touted the importance of working with neighboring counties and municipalities on issues ranging from transportation to affordable housing to mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. Please discuss whether you think regionalization is important and your vision for forging regional cooperation.
Stevens: Regional collaborations are only becoming more critical for our county. We have development rights within the county that, once built, could have dramatic impact to the way we live, work, and play. Focusing on the whole region is essential in retaining our quality of life because each unincorporated area and city impact each other. We need increased communication to ensure that development is done in a way that benefits the whole community—East and West—as well as for the Wasatch Back as a whole.
Large-scale projects in Wasatch County will have an impact on our infrastructure, and increased communication with Wasatch County officials would allow for better impact mitigation. No one benefits when grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential services are not considered in newly developed areas. Increased regional collaboration allows us to collectively address transportation and housing issues, which is far more effective than operating in a vacuum.
Harte: As we move forward, we will continue to see an increased need for regional planning and cooperation. Our relationship with each of our municipalities along with that of our neighbors in Wasatch County is vitally important to our continued success.
If we are effectively communicating and working together, we should be able to stand together and represent our needs to the State and Federal Government. We must understand what is happening around us to so we can effectively plan for the future.
Our relationship with the State has improved over the years and this is something we must continue to develop. Cross government and entity relationships is a perfect role for the County Council and given my past experience one I am particularly well suited for.
Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.
Stevens: We are at a critical time as a county and as a nation. We need local leaders who not only understand how to address budget needs but who fundamentally understand impacts of policy on individual lives. As both a first responder and victim advocate, I have had the honor of helping community members during the worst moments of their lives. I have cried with women abused by those closest to them. I have walked hand in hand through the courthouse with children who suffered sexual abuse. I know intimately how government and the criminal justice process operate, which will allow me to increase equity within these systems.
My experience in social services and law enforcement have allowed me practical experience regarding how policies and budgets impact individual lives. I understand how government systems within Summit County operate because I have worked inside of government for years. If we are to make needed changes to increase equity within our community and nation, we must begin by electing leaders who have a firm foundation serving vulnerable populations. We need people who understand practical matters of government budget and planning, while retaining a lens of individual impact. I am that candidate.
Harte: I have served in leadership positions – both as part of executive teams and as the chief executive. My leadership training began in an elite unit of the Marine Corps, and I have developed my skill set over time – learning to bring diverse groups of people together to achieve a common goal. It is one thing to execute a plan that someone else created. It is quite another to be out in front leading the charge – a role that is unique to me in this race. Leadership is not something that you can learn from a book or taking a class. Solutions to challenging problems are often complicated and take nuance and creative problem solving to navigate. These are skills born from real world experience. As a Summit County Councilor, I will be attentive to the needs and interests of the community as Council develops plans for the future, while also having the compassion, experience and fortitude necessary to hold strong in the face of adversity and stay the course.
I would be the only Council member that has:
- Owned two small businesses in Summit County
- Children in the public-school system
- Worked for a local non-profit organization
- Lived in affordable housing
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