In the county council meeting on Tuesday night, the council considered applicants for the district four council position. This position was recently vacated by Member Rod Haslam, who is suffering with health problems. The applicants were Fred Jacobson, Jim Jones, and Ronda Kippen.
Jacobson, Jones and Kippen appeared together before the council and answered questions. The candidates began with a summary of themselves and their qualifications.
Kippen began by saying, “[I was] born and raised in Morgan. My parents were born and raised in Morgan.” Kippen is married and has three children ranging from eighteen to thirteen. She continued, “I have a very deep love of land. I was introduced to the world of escrow about seven years ago and so I got very involved with the title and escrow side of life.” Kippen also has had experience in construction as a finance manager and in lending. Kippen is currently the Planning Administrative Assistant for the county. Kippen observed that her experience in bonds and banking would be very valuable for the county as they consider bonds for developers and other entities. She expressed a love for the county and for its people and communicated her desire to serve.
Jones has lived in Morgan his entire life. He is married and has three sons. He expressed his love of Morgan. As he grew up here he came to have an understanding that Morgan, “is a community of service.” He also added, “I grew up with Mr. Haslam. He is a friend of mine…I have nothing but respect and admiration for him.” Jones has been a state delegate and is serving on the airport advisory board. He has previously run for county council. Jones expressed a desire to serve and said, “I would love to serve with you. I promise that I will be able to fulfill my obligation… and I’ll do the best that I can.”
Fred Jacobson has lived in Morgan for thirty-eight years. His wife was raised here. He and his wife have four children and nine grandchildren. He has a bachelors degree in business administration. He worked for Thiokol Chemical, he also worked as a contract administrator in the construction of the Job Corp center. He worked for Cutter Laboratories where he was over administration, personnel, accounting, and purchasing. He then worked for Deseret Pharmaceuticals. He has administered budgets in excess of fifteen million dollars. After a short two-year retirement he purchased a real estate company and for the last twenty-five years he has been involved in this endeavor. He has served for three years on the Morgan County Planning Commission. He expressed his love for Morgan and the fact that it has been a great place to raise his family. He is semi retired and feels that he has the time to serve.
Councilmember Kelley asked about the applicant’s experience in budgeting.
Kippen replied, “My budget experience in past employment has been pretty intense. As a finance manager I was solely responsible for preparing the annual financials along side the CPA. I had to prepare quarterly, weekly, tax reports. I am very knowledgeable as to the intricate details that go into each little line item that is going to go into your profit and loss statements…I know what to look for to cut back. I have had to stand in front of five owners and tell them, ‘Sorry, we have to cut this and this and this.’ and not have them like the response.”
Jones replied that, “One of the things that helps me with the budget issue is having owned two businesses and having to make the hard decisions. If you have ever been in business for yourself, that’s the first thing you learn is the ability to prioritize and direct funds from one place to somewhere that’s a higher priority and I think that’s what we are all talking about.”
Jacobson said, “As I stated earlier, my first job out of college was in Thiokol in the proposals and budgeting. A group of four of us were in charge of preparing a manufacturing proposal for the first stage of the minuteman and the first stage of the Polaris missile. When you’re working for the government you better make sure you don’t overrun budget because they will come down on you.” Jacobson also related his experience in budgeting at Job Corps, Deseret Pharmaceuticals, and in his own business.
Councilmember Mathews asked what the applicants thought the number one priority of the county council should be.
Jacobson related that the major problem in the county is land and growth. He expressed that the infrastructure of the city and county will be an issue as growth continues. One of the key challenges he sees is managing and balancing the overall county needs with the need to build out infrastructure to support the growth in the county.
Jones said that in the past he had seen growth as the number one issue, but now feels that the most important issue is generating a tax base. He is concerned that the county cannot be sustained without a tax base from businesses. He also sees that cleaning up the challenges created from the last spurt of growth in the county will be a key challenge for the council for the next few years. He views water as a substantial issue for the county to address as well.
Kippen echoed that growth is an issue. She said that the importance of bonds and the agreements with developers is also key. She sees this as her main concern and her main goal. She would like to apply her experience in bonds and developer agreements to help the council draft good agreements and come to good decisions.
Several of the questions related to economic development and how the applicants would approach the economic development issue.
Jones expressed that potential businesses are not always treated in a way that would encourage them to locate in the county. He emphasized that the county has a great environment and a great workforce and that we should help potential businesses understand that. Jones also expressed that a position in the county focused on economic development is very important.
Jacobson talked about personal experience when he tried to bring a business to Morgan County. He said his experience was that he hit a brick wall. He was aware of other businesses that have had similar experiences. He would like to see the county focus on business that will fit well with the community and treat them in a way that would attract them to the county. He sees that outdoor focused businesses like Browning would be ideal and fit well in the community.
Kippen spoke about small businesses and their growth and expressed that the county does not have the staff to support collecting taxes from the home based business already established. She is concerned that most residents will not support bringing businesses into the county and sees this issue as a difficult one to solve with no easy solutions.
After the applicants answered the questions, the council met in executive session. After nearly an hour of discussion the council returned and reported that they had not come to a decision on selecting a new member. Several members of the council had asked for more time to consider whom to select. The council would like to have the new councilmember selected before the budget process begins early November. The council set a date for Wednesday the third of November at 8:00 a.m. to meet and select the candidate.