Six state legislators enjoyed a visit to Moab and discussions with community leaders last week, prompted by an invitation from Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus.
Niehaus offered eight invitations and six of those individuals were able to attend. Included were two of Moab’s own state legislators: Sen. David Hinkins (R-District 27), and Utah House Rep. Christine Watkins (R-District 69). Also in attendance were President of the Utah Senate Stuart Adams (R-District 22), Sen. Jacob Anderegg (R-District 13), Rep. Mike McKell (R-District 66, and Rep. Francis Gibson (R-District 65).
“My objective in hosting them was to create a space for developing better relationships with our legislators, so regardless of what we’re communicating with them, we’re coming from a place of already having a relationship,” Niehaus explained.
The trip included a float down “The Daily” section of the Colorado River and big-picture discussions of Moab and Grand County’s unique community needs.
“We had a great time,” said Rep. Watkins, who was not able to stay for the whole visit but enjoyed the river float. She said she is very impressed with Niehaus, as well as all the city staff—all the boat work was done by employees of City Hall.
“They educated us and entertained us, and it was so impressive,” Watkins said. She commended Niehaus on her initiative to build bridges with state legislators.
“In anything, it’s who you know and the relationship that you have created with them,” Watkins said.
Sen. Hinkins came away from the trip motivated to assist Grand County in obtaining more COVID-19 relief funding.
“We’re going to try to help you with some money,” Hinkins told the Moab Sun News, adding that the funding would be an upcoming discussion item for senators.
Niehaus said she was pleased with the opportunity to illustrate the issues her constituents care about firsthand. Usually, she said, Moab and Grand County leaders must travel to the state capital to advocate for local needs.
“We go to them, constantly reaching out and driving to Salt Lake and trying to put Moab in front of them,” Niehaus said. “To have them come here is such a big deal. And in a year when we need savings, it’s actually quite a big savings for us not to have to travel to the state capital.”
Broad topics of discussion covered quality-of-life issues and economic diversification. No specific requests were made of state representatives; instead, local leaders attempted to establish a shared understanding of Moab’s character and needs.
“We really had a good opportunity to explain why Moab’s been doing the things we’ve been doing,” Niehaus said.
Niehaus said she was delighted to host Rep. Watkins on her first-ever river rafting trip, and took the opportunity to recognize her particularly as one of a minority of female legislators at the state.