ST. GEORGE — After serving on the Washington County Commission for 20 years, Alan Gardner will be retiring by the end of 2016, leaving Seat A of the commission open for a newcomer.
While potential candidates for the County Commission won’t be able to officially register for candidacy until March, some have already announced their intent to run for the seat. Among them is Washington County Administrator Dean Cox, who made the announcement over social media Monday.
“Through a thoughtful and deliberative process, I have decided to become a candidate for the open seat,” Cox posted on Facebook. “It will be an honor for me to leverage my experience and expertise as the county administrator, local business owner and former Emergency Services director by serving as a member of the Washington County Commission.”
Many people have approached 61-year-old Cox about running for County Commission, he said. One of those supporters is the very man whose seat Cox is seeking.
“I’ve talked to him for quite a while about running for commission as seats have been open and think he’d do a great job,” Gardner said. “He’s got great background experience.”
Cox has worked with and for the county in various capacities since the mid-1980s, first as a volunteer, then part-time and finally full-time as the county’s emergency services director, eventually landing the position of county administrator in 2009.
“I’ve been active in community affairs my entire life,” Cox said. “In fact, that’s really how I ended up being the county administrator.”
In the mid-1980s, Cox was involved in the amateur radio scene. As ham radio operations can act as a crucial niche of an emergency communications network, he volunteered to become the county’s emergency communications director. He helped create a network of radios for emergency communications and did the same for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Following the Quail Creek reservoir dam break on Jan. 1, 1989, Cox was hired by the county as its emergency services director on a part-time basis until 2003. He held the position until becoming the county administrator in 2009.
During his time as emergency services director, Cox said, he collaborated with the different police and fire agencies to create cohesive emergency response plans. That was in 2004. In 2005, heavy flooding hit Washington County and put the response plans to the test. Cox said he was pleased with the results.
“I’m so thankful we had that opportunity to coordinate and work with each other,” he said, “and from that, we’ve continued to build and improve.”
Cox has also served as chairman of the Southwest Regional Response Team for the state, has been heavily involved in search and rescue operations and also served as chair of the Washington County Republican Party from 2005-2009.
“My whole life has been geared to public service,” Cox said.
As for how this experience will translate to serving as a county commissioner, Cox said it gives him a tool set that can make a difference for county residents. He is also a big proponent of collaboration in government, as he has done with the multiple emergency response agencies within and outside the county.
“I’m a team player,” he said, “and it’s that team-playing attitude and the recognition, and I firmly believe this, that everybody in the room is smarter than anybody in the room. We get our best answers when we sit down and work for the best solution that does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.”
Collaboration brings about the best governance, Cox said. Yet, he also said he understands that the solutions found through collaboration won’t appeal to everyone.
“Always ask yourself: ‘Is my decision fair, and is it defensible?’” he said.
Cox is also a small-business owner, running Colorland Sales and Services with his brother.
“I’ve signed both sides of the paycheck,” he said. “I get taxes and the burden they can be, and I also understand the necessity of good governance.”
He said he supports transparent government, particularly county residents knowing where their tax dollars are being spent.
“I’m completely for transparent government,” Cox said.
Cox said he can also bring common sense to the work of the County Commission, along with a “let’s get the job done” attitude that will mesh well with recently elected commissioners Zachary Renstrom and Victor Iverson.
“When we sit down and collaborate and express our ideas, I think we’re going to end up with better solutions and better governance,” Cox said.
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