With diverse and large districts, legislators representing Summit County must cover a lot of ground
Park City’s state legislators — three House representatives and two senators — have a lot on their respective plates when it comes to representing their districts.
Altogether, Summit County’s state legislative districts, which are largely rural, cover a vast area that borders Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. The constituents in those districts come from places as wide-ranging as Salt Lake City, North Ogden and Vernal.
While the boundaries might change in the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census, legislators will represent the same areas that they have since 2011 when the Legislature’s 2020 session begins later this month. Here’s an overview of the districts Summit County’s legislators represent and some of the issues important to the diverse constituents occupying them.
State Rep. Brian S. King is the only Democratic state politician representing any portion of liberal-leaning Summit County. House District 28 covers east Salt Lake City, Emigration Canyon and Summit Park, stretching into parts of Pinebrook. There is often overlap in the input the House minority leader receives from constituents in the mostly residential Summit County portion of his district and in the feedback he gathers from Utah’s largest city. He said his Summit County constituents, though, are especially concerned with transportation.
“I don’t think there are a lot of huge differences in terms of ideology (throughout the district),” King said. “Issues involving getting to and from Park City are issues that Summit Park and Pinebrook are a lot more sensitive to than a lot of other parts of the district.”
State Rep. Tim Quinn, a Heber City Republican, presides over House District 54, which includes Park City itself and all of Wasatch County. Though differences among the constituencies and economies of the district are there — Park City’s affluence contrasts with Heber’s rural character, among other things — there are signs that the interests of the Park City area and of Wasatch County are increasingly in alignment as the latter becomes one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.
Quinn views the two parts of his district as very distinct groups in culture that are “absolutely” growing closer as economies.
“There are some hot issues that I think each county … kind of gravitate towards, Wasatch is very much concerned with education, very much concerned with low taxes, Summit County is concerned about education but probably much more concerned about environmental issues,” Quinn said.
Representing much of the Snyderville Basin and a large portion of the east side of Summit County is state Rep. Logan Wilde, a Republican from Croydon. House District 53 is a vast one, running from Bear Lake in the north all the way to Flaming Gorge in the east.
Wilde said that the district’s size belies some of the similarities the communities within it share, such as an exploding vacation home market in Daggett County or the growth of Morgan and Summit counties. Rural communities like Coalville and Wanship may find they have more in common with the agriculture-based areas of the district, like Morgan, than with nearby Park City.
“It’s very diverse comparative to some of the inner-city areas (in the state) that are very homogenized,” Wilde said of the district’s patchwork of culture and economies.
The state Senate districts covering Summit County, meanwhile, are much larger. Two Republican state senators represent Summit County: Sen. Ron Winterton of Roosevelt and Sen. Allen Christensen of North Ogden.
Christensen’s district covers a portion of Summit County including Jeremy Ranch and Summit Park in the west and Coalville to the northeast, making up a small portion of the district’s population, which includes a large chunk of the Ogden micropolitan area.
After Winterton was elected in 2018, he admitted that District 26, which includes Park City, Heber and Vernal as population centers, presented a daunting task: representing two very different constituencies. He says that he doesn’t see representing both the growing luxury resort economy of the Wasatch Back and a contracting energy sector in the Uintah Basin as too much to handle. In fact, he says it’s an advantage because he touches upon a wide variety of issues that face the state at large, like air quality and tourism.
“That’s the thing about legislation, from my point of view it needs to be good for the whole state, not just one or two (regions),” Winterton said.
A key issue across the entire district, in varying fashions, is transportation. Park City’s issues with traffic are well-documented, but the rural Uintah Basin, which lacks a railroad, deals with its own issues in the form of U.S. 40. The shipping that the region relies upon to do business is restricted to one highway that narrows to two lanes in some spots, causing congestion hundreds of miles away from the nearest urban area.
Change to come?
Utah’s legislative districts were last drawn after the 2010 census by state lawmakers to include roughly 40,000 people in each House district — approximately the population of Summit County — and 100,000 people in each Senate district.
A successful ballot initiative in 2018 to reform the state redistricting process generated significant conversation among voters in Summit County. The current map has made it an uphill battle for any Parkite hoping to represent the area at the state level — East Side politicians have won seats in the Statehouse — but that could change once a bipartisan redistricting commission is convened to draw the boundaries following the 2020 census.
King, a proponent of independent redistricting, said the west side of Summit County would likely be better served in the Statehouse with a more uniform district.
“If you had one person representing just Park City, it would be a more pure and unconflicted voice for the interests of Summit County,” he said.
Quinn compared his philosophy on representing districts to the way Congress operates.
“I think it’s wrong for congressmen and women to go up there and say ‘I need to get every dollar I can for my district,’” Quinn said. “What’s more important is what’s right for America, and I take the same stance with the (Utah) districts.”
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