Don Mathews is a member of the Morgan County Council. He was appointed in June to fill the seat vacated by David Gardiner until the election. Mathews is a candidate for the district five seat in on the council. He is running against Austin Turner.
Mathews is a native of Utah. He was born in Utah, but during most of his school years he lived in Utah County. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico and then returned to Utah. He graduated from BYU.
Mathews’ wife, Cherie, is from Morgan. After they were married the couple decided to raise their family in Morgan. Mathews has five children, all of which graduated from Morgan High School. Mathews career spans thirty years, including being the general manager of three businesses, two in retail and one in the service industry. These jobs have taken him from Morgan twice, but he and his wife both love the Morgan Valley, the people, and the quality of life and so they returned.
Mathews says that his time on the council has been, “eye opening.” Even with all of the statements from the council preparing him for the time commitment he still indicates that he has been surprised by the amount of time required. He also talked about the amount of time he has spend learning about land issues, often studying at night and spending time with the county staff to better understand the issues.
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?
Mathews says that he was motivated to run after attending some county council meetings. He saw the issues facing the council and felt that his experience and knowledge could be helpful to the council as it grapples with the variety of issues faced each week.
2. What would you like to accomplish, if elected?
Mathews says, “One of the things I think could improve is that there could be better communication between the elected officials. By that I mean, we as a council don’t have any direct responsibilities for any of the other elected officials. A lot of times there are things going on in those departments that would be helpful for us to be aware of. If we communicated a little better, maybe had a once a month or once a quarter round table discussion so that everybody is aware of what’s going on and how we could help one another, I think that would be helpful.”
Mathews would also like to find ways to help the county maintain its beauty by managing growth appropriately. He would also like to see the county and city have a more synergistic relationship.
3. What do you think are the major issues facing the county?
Mathews sees two major issues, finances, and growth. Mathews talked about the limited tax resources available to the county to provide services to county residents. He said, “We live in a county that does not have a whole lot of tax resources and so our budget is pretty tight. I think most people, by now, thought the economy would improve, and it hasn’t. We need to have some contingency plans on how we go forward to our budget.”
While growth has been slower over the recent past, he sees growth returning. Determining where the water resources for this development will come from as well as how the county will fund the additional services required from growth are key issues for which the county will need to find solutions.
4. What changes would you like to see in the county?
Mathews says, “I would like to … see people’s jobs more defined. I don’t know that we have a good set of job descriptions for folks. If people are going to be held accountable for things they ought to know what those things are they are going to be held accountable to.”
He would also like to see more of the community get involved. He says, “I know there have been times or positions on some of the boards that have gone unfilled because we haven’t had people that have wanted to participate. I would like to see more of the county involvement from the people. We have some very smart, qualified people, with great skills sets that could really help us out if they would just volunteer to help.
5. What is your opinion on the county attempting to bring new businesses into the county?
Mathews talked about needing to assess what the county residents would like to see. If the residents of the county would like to have Morgan remain a bedroom community then the county should pursue businesses that support the needs of those living here. He sees a need in Mountain Green for some additional services so that these individuals can shop in Morgan County for their needs instead of purchasing below.
If the residents would like to have jobs come into the community so that more of the county can both work and live here, then the approach is different. To accomplish this goal the county would need to target businesses with salaries sufficient to support living in the county. Mathews indicated that the businesses would need to be environmentally friendly. To attract these businesses Mathews believes that his background in marketing will be helpful as the county develops plans to show the benefits of the county.
6. How do you feel about the growth in the county?
Mathews sees growth as inevitable and would like to see decisions from the council to manage this growth to maintain the lifestyle in the county.
7. How do you feel about the quality of life in the county? What would you propose to enhance it?
Mathews feels that the quality of life in the county is excellent. He would like to see, over time, more parks and more walking paths. He would also like to see more affordable housing in the county so that as the youth grow up they can afford to live in the county.
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?
Mathews would like to avoid raising taxes. “I am a fiscal conservative,” he says. He sees some possibilities for savings in the county’s purchasing to consolidate and save money.
Mathews would like to find a way to create a rainy day fund for those times when the economy is slow. He would like to see the county focus on economic development. He says, “In a lot of ways we have made it difficult for businesses to come here and get started in the county.”
9. Morgan County is non-partisan. Should it continue this way or change to a partisan system?
Mathews believes this is a good system that encourages a good selection of people to run for office.
10. How do you picture Morgan County in five years from now and twenty years from now?
In the short run Mathews believes that growth will continue at a very modest pace. He believes that there will be more necessary businesses to support the population.
On the twenty-year horizon he sees Ravala and Snow Basin projects in full production. He also sees many more businesses coming to the county to support the growth in population.
11. Where do you stand on the issue of a Special Service District?
Mathews does not feel that the county should establish a new taxing entity.
12. Where do you stand on the Aquatic Center?
He does not feel that this is the time to establish the aquatic center.
13. Is the Morgan School District giving children the quality of education they should have?
Mathews believes that the school system in Morgan has done an outstanding job, particularly on the modest budgets available.
14. In the past citizens have often only become involved after a decision is made by the council. What would you do to get people involved sooner?
“I would like to see us maybe be able to hold council meetings in various parts of the county. Morgan is not a lot of distance from Mountain Green, but it is enough distance that people may not want to trek that far. So I would like to see us maybe move some of our council meetings to the Mountain Green area as well, to give those folks a chance to participate in government.”
He also would like to see the county use email, twitter, and other electronic communication mediums to engage residents in the discussion.
15. What do you see as positive actions the Morgan County government has taken?
Mathews believes that the decisions on the Geologic Hazard Ordinance, and the Aquatic Center were good decisions. He also believes that the road bond was good. He says, “It makes perfect economic sense to build and repair as many roads as we can when the economy is down like this. I think I heard one of the council people say that we had allocated dollars to fix fifteen miles of highway and in today’s economy we can now do probably almost thirty [for the same amount of money].”
He also sees good roads and a good rail system as essential to economic development in the county.
16. 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?
Mathews’ believes that his extensive experience in business will be an asset to the county and the people he represents. His knowledge of finance and marketing will be helpful as the council manages through issues.
17. How would you vote if the majority of the constituents in your district favored one decision, but you personally favored a different decision?
Mathews would ensure that his constituents understood the issue, but if an overwhelming majority of his constituents favored a direction he would vote according to this majority.
18. What is your position on the Road Bond (should the council have passed this bond)?
See Question 15.
29. Do you have time to serve in this role?
Mathews, with experience now under his belt on the council continues to believe that he has the time to serve in the position.
Mathews has been privileged to have the opportunity to serve and is excited about the opportunity to serve in the future. He commented that the council will have four new faces come election time and that this experience will be invaluable should he be elected and continue in this role. He hopes that voters will review his positions and decide to support him for this position on the county council.