Austin Turner is a man with a mission. He is running for the County Council District 5 seat. Turner and Don Mathews, the candidates for District 5 in the fall election, faced the county council on June 21st when the council determined who will fill the vacancy left by David Gardiner until the fall election. Mathews was chosen by the council to serve the remainder of the term, but Turner remains committed to running and showing the voters what he believes. He has a mission in his quest for county council to ensure, if elected, that the county employees are paid an appropriate wage for their service in the county.
Turner is a native of Morgan. His family forms the heart of the ambulance service here in Morgan. He is a graduate of Weber State University with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Turner works for the Summit County Sheriff’s office, where he is a detective in the Special Operation Bureau. He also is a Deputy Investigator with the State Medical Examiners Office.
Turner began his career in law enforcement in Morgan. He was an officer on the Sheriffs office. The wage that he was making was insufficient to support his family and so he left employment in Morgan and went to work in Summit County.. He continues to live in Morgan, however. Morgan is the place that holds his heart.
Turner is married and has four children with one on the way.
He lives in Round Valley with his wife, Alicia, whose maiden name is Rees and is also from Morgan.
Below are the answers to questions that will be posed to each of the candidates interviewed who are running for county council seats:
1. Why are you running for county council?
“The reason I am running for county council is that I want to figure out a way that we can try to diversify or increase the amount of money we receive so we can raise the wages for the employees we have. I feel that the employees that work for Morgan County deserve to make a decent living, and in speaking with some of them, they don’t make very much money. They struggle to make ends meet. I think most people, if they were offered the option to come to work for Morgan for $15 bucks an hour, they probably wouldn’t. We have quality employees we should be able to give them quality pay for what they do.”
2. What would you like to accomplish, if elected?
“The employees that work for Morgan County really sacrifice. I think they sacrifice a lot more than people realize. I want to try to compensate them for the sacrifice they make.”
3. What do you think are the major issues facing the county?
See the answers to questions 1 and 2.
4. What changes would you like to see in the county?
“I would like to see a change between the county and city government; there be more of an open line of communication between the city council and the county council…[on] everything from the Sheriff to the parks, I would like to see more diversification, more acceptance of business.”
Turner relates the experience of a friend in a city in the valley where they had applied for a business license. The city sent someone to his house to fill out the paperwork and help the business get started. There was no long approval process and there was a high touch service experience that made it simple to begin a business. While Turner does not expect this exact experience in Morgan, he believes that an approach that is as friendly and helpful to businesses as this represents would be an improvement in the county and would help to draw businesses here.
5. What is your opinion on the county attempting to bring new businesses into the county? How would you attract these businesses?
“I would try to work with them. I would try to court some of the businesses to come in. I was actually working for Snow Basin when they expanded into Morgan County. Morgan threw up so many road blocks and caused so many problems all we ended up with was the sewer ponds. This kind of gives you a hint on how Snow Basin felt that Morgan treated them. I know that up at the Canyons, they give Summit County millions a year just in lift passes alone. This last weekend I went up and searched a $12 million dollar cabin. Cabins get taxed at 100%. Houses [primary residences] are taxed at 55%. Someone that owns a cabin, their kids don’t go to our schools. They come to Morgan, spend their money, then go home.”
6. How do you feel about the growth in the county?
“The interesting thing is that everyone wants to be the last person to move into Morgan County… It’s [growth] is going to happen. It is going to happen whether we want it to or not, inevitably. We can either work with it and try to make the best of it or we can try to fight it all the way and get worn out and ran over.”
Turner continues, “Right now, what we have is a bunch of developments that are from ¼ to 50%. We have a bunch of homes that are built with no one living in them. We have hundreds of building lots sitting vacant. I think before we go out and add any more large developments, maybe we should go out and fill the empty lots we have.”
7. How do you feel about the quality of life in the county? What would you propose to enhance it?
Turner believes the quality of life is the reason why most people live here. He thinks it is excellent and that there is little to improve.
8. Morgan County Revenues have declined in the past few years. Do you think the county budgets are too generous and need to be trimmed? Do you think the County should raise property taxes, are there services that should be diminished or cancelled or services that should be expanded?
“As far as budgets being generous. Over the last few years they [the council] have cut police, fire, and medical budgets every year. Our parks department is expanding by leaps and bounds. Somehow I think we are trying to put the cart before the horse. If we can’t cover our emergency services, if we can’t work our roads, I think those things need to come first. Your police, fire, medical, your roads department, your essential services, the health department. Everything else is a trickle down from there.”
9. Morgan County is non-partisan. Should it continue this way or change to a partisan system?
Turner believes this is a good approach for the county.
10. How do you picture Morgan County in five years from now and twenty years from now?
He does not see the growth stopping. He would like to see more amenities come to Morgan including hotels, and tournaments at the Wilkinson Recplex. He would like to see the Fairgrounds have more diversity, like soccer fields. He would like to see more business opportunities in Morgan to bring more income to the community and would like to see ways to take advantage of the ski resorts to generate revenue for the county.
11. Recently the County participated in Envision Morgan and other public input planning meetings. Some respondents favored clustering development into specific areas with the remaining spaces undeveloped. What is your vision for future development of the County?
Turner believes that Morgan has good open spaces now. He believes that many people move to Morgan to enjoy the rural lifestyle including owning horses and other animals. He believes the existing development approach with larger lots is a better approach than clustering.
12. Where do you stand on the issue of a Special Service District?
“Right now, unfortunately, I think we can’t afford it. Hopefully in five years, no more than ten if we can get a more diversified tax base I am absolutely for it. I think it is great. Unfortunately you have to have some expendable money to do that with.”
13. Where do you stand on the Aquatic Center?
See question 12
14. Is the Morgan School District giving children the quality of education they should have?
He believes the school district is doing an excellent job.
15. In the past citizens have often only become involved after the council makes a decision. What would you do to get people involved sooner?
“The only way to engage that is a lot of footwork. Getting out, knocking doors, talking to people…figuring out what the problems are, explaining issues to them, talking to people.”
16. What do you see as positive actions the Morgan County government has taken?
Turner believes the council has been frugal and that they have administered the day-to-day operations in the county well.
17. Knowing the diversity of issues faced by the council from legal issues to land management to personnel, public works, economic development, etc. What skills do you bring to help the county with these issues?
Turner expresses that his background is all about communication. He related experiences while running for the council position where individuals have approached him that have never been willing to have conversations in the past. He believes he is approachable, will listen, and is a problem solver.
18. How would you vote if the majority of the constituents in your district favored one decision, but you personally favored a different decision?
Turner would help to ensure that his constituents understand the issue fully and then once they have talked about the issue, he would follow the opinion as long as what they want to do is legal and ethical.
19. Do you have relatives working for the county”
Turner has many relatives working for the county in the ambulance service. He does not feel that this would significantly impact his ability to serve in this position. He has spoken with the county attorney and while he would not be able to participate in votes that would directly impact him or his family, he feels confident that this would be manageable. He sees the service of he and his family as a legacy of service in helping preserve lives in Morgan County.
19. What is you position on the road bond?
He believes that this was needed. He would like to explore how impact fees are used. He would like to see a greater portion of the impact fees be used to support the emergency services and infrastructure in the county.
20. Do you have time to serve in this role?
While he does not pretend to understand all the time commitment, based on comments from other council members, he expresses that he has a commitment to the position, and flexibility with his job to put in the time necessary to do the position.
Turner would like to express thanks to those who support him and for those who have taken time to talk with him and encourage him. He loves this county and hopes that he has the opportunity to serve on the council and help to make the county an even better place to live.