FEATURE — If you call Washington County Commissioner candidate Gil Almquist and get his message service, the first thing you will hear is not “Hello” but rather “It’s a beautiful day in Dixie.”
The simple and somewhat unique greeting sums up in one sentence how Almquist feels about Washington County. As he’ll tell you, he loves it here.
Almquist is running for the Washington County Commission seat currently held by Zachary Renstrom, who chose not to run for re-election. Almquist will face candidate Allen Davis in the June 26 GOP primary. The winner of the primary will square off against Democratic candidate Robert E. Ford in the November general election.
Almquist first fell in love with Washington County when he moved to the area following a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His sister had already moved here, he said, and the pair explored its every corner, from Pine Valley Mountain’s cool air to the desert red rock and the waters of the Virgin River.
It was in Washington County where Almquist started a landscaping business – one that still thrives today – and raised his three children with his wife, Jill, a savvy business woman in her own right, Almquist said.
Because of his family’s experiences living and growing in the county over the course of nearly four decades, Almquist said his overarching motivation if elected as commissioner would be to ensure that other people living and moving into the county have the same opportunities for success.
“We want to live here forever,” Almquist said, “and that’s what we want to allow other people to do: have a family here, have a good job and enjoy it.”
Almquist has a wealth of experience working both as an appointed civil servant as well as an elected official. He previously served on the city of St. George planning commission under former Mayor Karl Brooks and was elected to serve two terms as a member of St. George City Council serving under former Mayor Dan McArthur and finishing under Mayor Jon Pike.
Though Almquist’s life in Washington County began by exploring its every corner, he now hopes to travel across the county working on behalf of the people and their various issues.
Among the many issues in Washington County, Almquist pointed out five that he believes the county faces and offered the following insight as to how to help manage them.
Almquist has expressed his concerns over the federal government’s excessive hand in dealing with the county’s public lands. He believes if the lands are truly public, the federal government should let the publicly elected officials in the county manage them.
It won’t happen overnight, he said, but by building relationships of cooperation and trust with various agencies like the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and others, Almquist believes the state will eventually be able to manage the lands on their own.
“I’m the candidate that can do that,” he said. “I’ve shown that I can do that.”
Among the most pressing concerns for a growing desert county is water, Almquist said.
“We will never stop, in the desert, talking about water,” he said. “It will never not be on the table.”
Almquist said that he is in favor of the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline as long as it is the most economic way to get water to Washington County. He is also in favor of creating other ways to provide water to the county, including building a reservoir in Warner Valley.
What he never wants to have happen, Almquist said, is for the county to get to the point where it has to use water – or the lack of it – as a tool to tell people they can’t come to the area to live.
“It’s un-American,” he said. “We are the land of the free.”
Almquist said he is grateful to the water visionaries who came before him and made it possible for him to have a landscaping business and raise a family, and he hopes to provide the same opportunities to others in the most cost-efficient way possible.
Chief on the list of transportation issues in Washington County is the proposed northern corridor, which Almquist said he supports.
“It is a way for us to get people from one area of the county to another without having to go through St. George,” he said.
Almquist is also in favor of supporting efforts to expand SunTran to neighboring cities, as well as continuing to build biking paths and trails for recreational and active transportation uses.
He envisions a trail system that could stretch from the top of Snow Canyon State Park all the way to the gateway of Zion National Park.
Having served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which manages the network of county highways not within the jurisdiction of cities and towns within the county, Almquist believes he has the necessary experience and knowledge to work for the people to build and maintain proper roads and transportation routes.
Taxes and regulation
While Almquist understands the need for taxes for the success of the county, his primary concerns are if they are fair, properly assessed and properly spent.
“It is my duty to protect the funds of the citizens and make sure they are allocated to benefit the citizens,” Almquist said on his website.
Where regulation is concerned, Almquist said he is against burdensome and complicated laws and ordinances that would restrict the freedom and choice of Washington County citizens.
As far as public safety and law enforcement in the county is concerned, Almquist was quick to praise the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Cory Pulsipher.
“I believe that the sheriff – and his office – is the absolute top law enforcement official in the county, bar none,” Almquist said.
In order to maintain and even elevate public safety in Washington County, Almquist proposed the following on his website:
Immediately, we need to make sure wages are fair and comparable to others in the field. Proper equipment and training, plus incentives, and merit promotions for exemplary service and goal achievement must be part of any successful law enforcement program. I will put my heart and soul into the requirements to keep our county law enforcement the best in the state.
Almquist added that he feels like education will be a key factor in solving a lot of issues for the future of the county, including affordable housing, homelessness and jobs.
He is in favor of promoting every possible way to expand Dixie State University and Dixie Technical College’s offerings to provide more access to education.
As commissioner, Almquist hopes to serve the county with a strong work ethic, a healthy sense of humor, a love for his family and the people of Washington County and an ability to work to the best conclusion possible for everyone.
Written by HOLLIE REINA, St. George News.
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