Guest editorial: Experience matters, and Stevens has the right kind
“Experience matters…” It’s a refrain I hear a lot lately, especially as it relates to our upcoming (June 30) Summit County Council election in which two candidates with some similar strengths are competing for a vacant seat. Both Canice Harte and Malena Stevens show resumes brimming with community service and volunteer experience, and both currently serve on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission.
To be sure, this kind of experience does matter. Service not only affirms commitment to community, it also creates opportunity to connect volunteers to the general needs of said community people and to identify advocates and align resources.
Meanwhile, Planning Commission experience provides a good deal of the foundation in local government workings that all candidates should develop before making a run for office.
This could seem a toss-up on the surface and lead some people to simply vote for their friend, but it actually requires more nuanced exploration and vetting. Because while experience matters, not all experience is created equal.
There are the unique lived and acquired experiences that set one candidate apart from the other, and then there is the experience that meets the moment. Summit County is heavily reliant on tourism and tax dollars to support local businesses, municipal agencies and our socio-economically diverse population. Pre-COVID, we were already struggling with traffic, transit, development and school issues. During COVID — in which the virus upended tourism, severely impacted local businesses and exposed the extreme inequity that has left our working class families reliant upon schools, nonprofits and philanthropy for survival — weekly meetings reveal the monumental and excruciating work city and county budget managers face in deciding how to most appropriately slash services and programs on account of significant reductions in sales tax revenue.
In looking at both candidates through an objective lens filtered by the times we find ourselves in, my conclusion is unequivocal.
Malena Stevens is the best candidate for Summit County Council.
Combine Stevens’ current role at the Park City Police Department in which she helps craft and manage the agency budget with her previous experience as PCPD’s victim advocate coordinator with her endless volunteer and service work focused almost exclusively on supporting Summit County’s most vulnerable in their times of need, and well … I can’t imagine a more perfectly aligned set of experience or a more empathetic councilperson to guide our county in making budget cuts that won’t destroy residents’ quality of life.
Consider that Stevens is a young, working mother representative of exactly the type of leadership everyone under 50 keeps saying they want — someone relatable who understands the struggles facing young families and shares our concerns for economically and environmentally sustainable futures for ourselves and our youth.
Finally, let’s discuss recent Snyderville Basin Planning Commission meetings and others hosted by the county, the Health Department and PCMC. In each of these conversations, it is Stevens bringing the tough questions, pursuing clear timelines and outcomes, and even advising developers on how to revise plans to lessen community impacts and increase community benefit. Her constructive criticism and demand for accountability speak volumes of her approach to government work. And when you consider the well-publicized rift between Summit County and Park City councils in recent years, the support Stevens carries from members of both councils and East Side leadership — including endorsements from exiting Councilwoman Kim Carson and Francis Mayor Byron Ames — underscores her unique potential to drive regional solutions and collaboration.
Experience matters most when it’s the right experience. And voting locally matters more than ever. Please join me in voting Malena Stevens in the upcoming Summit County Council Democratic primary.
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Christopher Smart writes in a guest editorial that, until police reform happens in Utah, young men will continue to be ripped away from their families.