Recently I was involved in a conversation with a friend of mine, you know the kind you have every day . . . the weather, the economy, the relative state of moisture in the area, etc. and as it sometimes does the conversation came around to the upcoming local elections. "Ya' know", my friend said, "I don't know if I'm going to vote for so and so he's not from around here!" He went on to summarize the recent history of Emery county, "Ya' know things were just fine here until the they built the power plant, then all these people moved in and began changing things and, well I don't know . . . nothing's been the same since. If this guy gets elected he's gonna have ideas . . . ya' know he's not from around here!" This struck me as funny coming from this person but didn't really surprise me. It struck me as funny for, in more than one conversation with him, he's bemoaned that fact that there is such a lack of opportunity for young people here . . . "Ya' know Lou, I wish that there was something for my kids to do here to make a good living without having to go down in the mines like me so they could afford to live here and I could have them and my grandkids close" and now he was criticizing a candidate because he might change things and bring the very thing he wanted for his kids to the area . . . opportunity. My friend's "He's not from around here" attitude and conflicted desire to have both opportunity for his kids without change didn't surprise me though, it's a position I've heard expressed by many . . . don't forget I'm "not from around here" too.
When I first moved to Emery County I wanted to become part of and contribute to my new community. I participated in community activities and had heard my friend's lament about opportunity for the children of residents over and over again. Having had a business background I could see that the root of the problem appeared to be the lack of economic diversity so, at the next cycle of county elections, I ran for the nomination for County Commissioner on the Republican ticket on a platform of change and economic diversification and was promptly defeated based primarily on two things; you guessed it "He's not from around here!" and "He wants to change things and turn Emery County into California!" While the former was and is true the latter wasn't and isn't. I moved here from California to get away from California, but I did want to change things because I understand the two basic truisms of change. One, change can be either a positive thing or a negative thing and two, change is going to happen the only question becomes are we going to control change or is change going to control us. When we recognize and accept that change is going to happen we can make intelligent decisions and chose what form that change takes and at what pace that change will proceed; in other words, we control change and shape it to conform to our needs and quality of life standards . . . change becomes a positive thing. If however, we refuse to accept the inevitability of change, and as I've said, change is inevitable then that change will shape itself, take its own direction and at a pace that may not suit our needs and quality of life standards . . . change then becomes that negative thing that we dread.
Today, Emery County is changing; we are faced with federal administrations which are more and more hostile to coal, the resource which has been the county's economic life's blood; mines are closing and with the closings will come a corresponding reduction in subsidiary businesses, non-corporate farming and ranching are daily becoming less profitable in the face of oppressive federal regulations, and even tourism is under attack by ever increasing draconian pro-wilderness legislation. While it would be convenient and comfortable to bury our heads in the sand and deny change that denial won't stop it nor will it stop the economic devastation of this uncontrolled change. However, in recognizing the inevitability of the changes occurring one of the most fundamental intelligent decision we can make in controlling the effects of this change is who we elect to guide, shape, and control the pace of change. At this critical juncture in the history of Emery County we can no longer afford the luxury of electing unqualified individuals to office because they are locals, or they need a job, or they're "good guys" while turning away from qualified candidates simply because "He's (She's) not from here" or "He (She) wants to change things!"
Sometimes someone whose "not from around here" is exactly what is needed, they bring with them a fresh prospective and a different set of experiences that can become the engine that drives positive change and economic success. If Emery County is going survive with a healthy economy, a positive standard of living and an excellent quality of life the voters of the county are going to have to look past whether someone "is from here" or not and make their informed decisions at the polls based on a candidates qualifications not motivated by a fear of change.