For Marsha Holland, it’s all about having a voice to represent rural Utah on Capitol Hill for District 73. It’s a district that she says doesn’t have a lot of property tax revenue and there is a tremendous amount of federal land in the district.
“We are remote where we live in a lot of these places,” Holland said. “And what curtails (in a lot of ways) our economic development is our proximity to either the rail or highway.”
Holland gave the example of Beaver, UT and the city’s proximity to Interstate 15 and how that allows Beaver the ability to get materials and products in and out easier. Holland then pointed to Tropic, UT where, she hails from, and the town’s distance from rail and highway, which she says increases transportation costs for businesses, slowing growth and economic development.
“While we’re talking to all these people in District 73 which is a giant chunk of Utah and the state, we’re talking about compatible economic development,” Holland said. “So what is compatible for the area? Some places where there is broadband already, you can see where there is a little bit of a movement off the Wasatch Front that will allow people to perform online jobs.”
Holland said this allows people at or near retirement age to have the opportunity to work from home part-time, but she wonders if young people can be brought into the area who are interested in raising their families in the communities that comprise District 73.
“The way we do that is to make those communities great places to live,” Holland said. “How do we do that? We have to start with infrastructure. We have to start with solid waste management, clean water. We have to have housing and around here we need decent roads.”
Those are the kind of issues that Holland feels need to be dealt with first in the district and she believes that there is money available from the federal government to address some of the issues immediately.
“That’s kind of my main focus,” Holland said. “Let’s look at our infrastructure first. How do we get fresh water into some communities that don’t even have it? Let’s just start with the basics. The community I live in doesn’t have that many water taps left, so that’s suspending our growth.”
Another issue that Holland pointed to in the town of Tropic that needs to be dealt with is an older waste water system. She feels that legislatures can look to the United States Department of Agriculture or the state, as well as the counties which receive Transient Room Taxes (TRT). Holland feels like some of that TRT money should go back into the communities for projects like updating infrastructure concerns and, if elected, it’s something that she hopes to address through legislation.
“The county is getting TRT money,” Holland said. “That should–I believe–go back into helping us with infrastructure. In towns like Tropic that have been mowed over by tourism, and that happened very fast for us and particularly in the last five years. The visitation in Bryce Canyon National Park went from under a million when I moved here 20 years ago and this year is expected to exceed three million.”
Throughout her campaign Holland has encountered both strengths and weaknesses within the seven counties she has canvassed, much of which she has covered in a grassroots type approach. She enjoys going door to door in the counties she visits, talking to people and hoping to connect with them on a personal level that can only come from meeting face to face. Holland is also running as an unaffiliated candidate in a time of intense partisanship, parting the sea of red and blue and offering people an alternative. On the day Holland gave this interview, she was in Bluff for the seventh time since the start of her campaign.
“People are energetic and they wear many hats. They are willing to work hard, they are kind-hearted,” she said of the people in the counties of District 73 (Kane, Garfield, Wayne, Piute, San Juan, and portions of Beaver and Sevier). “These are beautiful communities. Whichever community I am in, I find these are common characteristics of the District. People are honest, hard-working, fair-minded.”
Holland said that because of how strong the tourism economy is in the small towns within District 73 that there is the possibility it caught many within leadership roles off guard. She hopes to bring some of that leadership and planning to the table, saying that everything is always better with a plan.
“That’s what I’m hearing from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development,” Holland said. “The people I talk with there say, ‘We’re missing planning. We’re missing leadership in those small communities.’”
Having decided to run as an Unaffiliated candidate, Holland has come across what she described as a great divide over issues like the National Monuments, which she said created a deep divide within her own community.
“For us in our communities around the Grand Staircase, when the downsizing happened it just opened a giant scab again,” Holland said. “I’m disappointed with our county leaders that they couldn’t step forward and say, ‘this will not divide us or our County.’”
Common ground is one of the focal points Holland has chosen to pursue throughout the course of her campaign and it’s something she hopes to continue to work on if she is elected.
“The important thing for me in this office is to continue with our common ground which is that we care about our land,” she said. “We use it in different ways, but we still care about it. A lot of people honor it. They want it to endure. We want access, That’s always been a part of my campaign. We have to maintain our access.”