Utah’s new governor, Spencer Cox, is putting a priority on the state’s rural areas and its small towns, according to Francis Mayor Byron Ames.
The Mayor gave his impressions to KPCW after a phone conversation last week with the Governor.
We asked Mayor Ames if rural Utah has been neglected by state government.
He said that’s not necessarily the case for Gary Herbert, the former Governor that he previously interacted with. But he said that new Governor Cox has a soft spot for small towns. Cox was once mayor of Fairview in the Sanpete Valley, and he has a number of rural economic initiatives.
The Mayor said that in last year’s elections, he supported Cox, whose campaign toured through Francis.
He said Cox understands the importance of small towns. The Mayor said that even Francis, with a population of about 1500, is significant for its proximity to larger municipalities.
“We’re not just a bunch of farmers and ranchers and agricultural people. There are those there, who are doing it on a smaller scale than they used to. But we’re a city with people that commute to Salt Lake and commute to Provo for their jobs. So they’re people who spend their large part of their lives in the big city, and have that part of their life, but then come home to the small city. So it’s not, we’re just this little blip on the radar that doesn’t matter. We’re the same people that are in the cities doing the jobs in the cities that people are thinking about every day.”
During the phone call with the governor, he talked about the impact on Francis during the past year of pandemic.
Ames said financially, they anticipated a major decrease in sales tax, from 15 to 25 percent. Instead, their sales tax was up, a little over 30 percent, due to the unique economy in Francis.
“We don’t have a whole lot of commercial, at least not customer-facing out, big buildings on the street that people see that we get sales tax revenue from. We have a lot of home-based businesses in Francis. And there’s a few customer-centered businesses where people walk in. But mostly it’s home-based businesses. So the home-based businesses seem to be doing well. And then we also share in a pool of sales-tax revenue that comes from the state, because we’re a smaller municipality. And so that pool apparently didn’t get hit as hard as people anticipated as well.”
He said one challenge he has, as a small-town mayor, is getting the word to constituents.
“How do you do messaging, to small-city residents as a mayor. I don’t have news channels. I don’t have radio channels. We have social media. We have the water bill. There’s very few ways to communicate with people. How do we best message? How are those messages received? Because there’s a lot of diverse opinions, even though it’s a small city.”
He also told the Governor about working together with the other South Summit towns of Kamas and Oakley. Ames said they’re not competitors. During the pandemic last spring, he said the Kamas Valley mayors often met and planned together.
“We’re working with the county, for example, on an Eastern Summit County sewer study, that this county has been conducting and we’re supporting that, to look at whether it’s feasible to have a valley-wide sewer district for this Kamas Valley instead of having three different sewer treatment facilities, and everybody losing efficiencies because we’re not sharing and working on that together.”
Francis Mayor Byron Ames.