LAVERKIN – Three LaVerkin citizens are vying for the city’s mayoral seat this election. They are: Kerry Gubler, Richard “Dick” Hirschi, and Ann Wixom.
To acquaint voters with their choices, St. George News invited answers to two main questions: “Describe some events in your life that made you who you are” and “Why are you running for mayor?” The candidates told their stories and family members or close associates added their perspectives.
LaVerkin City Mayoral Candidate Kerry Gubler already served as the city’s mayor approximately 20 years ago and has decided to take the plunge again.
His dad feels like he can focus more if elected this time around because he is now an empty-nester approaching retirement, Kerry Gubler’s son, Micah Gubler, said, whereas during his previous stint as mayor he had more commitments and a younger family with many children at home.
Kerry Gubler currently works for Serenicare Funeral Home and previously worked in the insurance industry, starting Valley Insurance in Hurricane. He also served in the administration of Cross Creek Manor for a time.
Cross Creek employees felt his father was a good manager, Micah Gubler said, recounting that employees said the current mayoral candidate was the glue that held everything together.
Aside from his various careers, Kerry Gubler is a consummate family man, his son said. “He is a great father, he invested a lot of time in us.”
One way he spent time with his own children – and children in the community – was playing basketball. Micah Gubler described with fondness his father opening up the church gym and teaching kids how to play basketball. It made quite an impression on others because its participants still reminisce about it, the candidate’s son said.
Other memories of his father growing up are week-long trips to Panguitch Lake in the summer. Kerry Gubler was a busy person back then, Micah Gubler said, so it meant the world to him and his brothers and sisters to spend a week fishing and camping with their dad.
Kerry Gubler is also a sports aficionado. Micah Gubler said he has many memories of his father teaching him how to pitch a baseball. Kerry Gubler coached his sons in little league baseball and basketball as well.
“I was always looking for him in the stands,” Micah Gubler said about his participation in athletic events as a child. “I value his advice and wisdom.”
Micah Gubler described his father as a disciplined person who is good at setting goals.
“He has sound judgement,” Micah Gubler said. “He looks at both sides to find solutions.”
Kerry Gubler said marrying his wife, born Patricia Barrick, whom he calls, “a wonderful person,” has made him who he is today. They are the parents of eight children and have 27 grandchildren.
It is hard for Kerry Gubler to choose a few seminal events in his life. “Everything teaches you life lessons,” he said.
It is hard for Kerry Gubler to say much about himself. “He definitely does not like to talk about himself,” Micah Gubler said of his father.
Describing his father as a financial conservative, Micah Gubler said his father would apply those same principles to managing the city’s money.
He is running for mayor, Kerry Gubler said, because he has a deep, sincere interest in the community. For instance, his grandfather, Joseph Gubler, was one of LaVerkin’s founders. Kerry Gubler said he can help those who have lived in the community for a long time as well as its newcomers.
His father has the qualities needed to be a good mayor, Micah Gubler said. “I can’t think of anyone with as much integrity,” he said.
Richard “Dick” Hirschi
Pulling up on an ATV with his grandson Kai in tow, Richard “Dick” Hirschi does not look like a typical mayoral candidate. The biggest clue of his candidacy is the T-shirt he wears advertising his campaign. He had just come from spraying weeds, another one of the ways he has chosen to help out the city he has called home for the last 33 years.
His son, Jed Hirschi, said he was surprised at his father’s current political ambition.
“We all tried to talk him out or running,” Jed Hirschi said. “He’s not a young guy but he enjoys being with the people of LaVerkin.”
His father had a couple of job opportunities to move elsewhere over the years, Jed Hirschi said. For instance, he got “bumped” by Utah Power and Light (now Rocky Mountain Power), requiring him to move if he wanted to keep his job. His son said he didn’t think his father would have moved even for a big pay raise.
Rather than move, Dick Hirschi got the job with the Hurricane City Parks Department, where he worked before getting on at the Hurricane City Fire Department, from where he retired two years ago. His last position was as deputy chief.
The first life event Dick Hirschi listed that helped make him who he is today was his marriage to his wife, Ruth.
“If I hadn’t married her, I’d be in trouble,” he said. “She reminds me all the time to be a good person.”
Together they raised two sons and a daughter.
Growing up, Jed Hirschi said his father was a good example, always doing chores with his children and regularly taking them camping and hunting. He was always there for his children’s athletic events, too. He said his father, who was an all-state lineman for the Hurricane High School football team in his heyday, helped build his will to achieve in athletics and be a better person.
Candidate Dick Hirschi said working as an Emergency Medical Technician for the city changed his perspective on life, realizing that it can be taken away in an instant. He said driving up Interstate 15 through Black Ridge, he remembers where accidents he responded to happened and can tell the story behind them, such as a man taking his eye off the road to change the radio station and rear-ending a semi-truck, killing him instantly, and a man who walked into oncoming traffic and suffered the same fate.
After he retired from Hurricane City, he became a LaVerkin city councilman. He is also a crossing guard at LaVerkin Elementary.
“It’s kind of like having a milk cow,” Dick Hirschi said of his crossing guard duties. “You have to go tend to it twice a day.”
LaVerkin, he said, is filled with good people and he knows many of them personally. A self-described outgoing person, Dick Hirschi enjoys working and talking with city employees and talking to city residents in general.
“I like to help them,” he said, paying special respect to the “ladies in the office” who have to deal with a variety of issues every day, such things as working with people who cannot pay their utility bills.
Speaking of money, Dick Hirschi said the city’s budget is always tight, but that it is “fun to balance the budget.”
He said we wishes there was more money so the city could do more things, but that “we do the best with what we have.”
Seeing his brother, Tom Hirschi serve as Hurricane’s mayor the last 12 years “probably helped” his own political ambitions, Dick Hirschi said, and he has asked his brother for advice from time to time.
In addition to reading and tending his grandchildren, one of Dick Hirschi’s hobbies is geocaching. He said he and his wife have done 700 of them, including every one of them in town. When he drove with his son to Georgia a while ago he got one in every state. But, he recently hurt his back, which required surgery and his injured back has affected his performance at his hobby.
“I just have to get the easy ones now,” he said of his hunt for geocaches in light of his condition following the surgery.
“They found out I had a spine,” he said jokingly.
One of Ann Wixom’s favorite memories of her growing-up years in South Weber, Utah, is packing into the car to travel the country with her father as guide. A history teacher, he wanted to ensure his children experienced what life was like outside their small town.
From her father, who also served on the town’s planning commission, in the state legislature and later as the town’s mayor, Ann Wixom said she learned to be accepting of others. She continued her lessons in acceptance by experiencing life in various locales throughout the nation as a military wife, including Virginia, Texas and Colorado.
She also learned compassion when she was in charge of a military family support group, Ann Wixom said, coordinating efforts to ensure military families received the money, food and healthcare they needed. At the same time, she became aware of domestic violence. Advocacy for domestic violence victims has become one of her passions. A few years ago she wrote a grant for the Hurricane City Police Department that set up a victim advocacy program in the community.
In addition to her volunteer work as a military wife, Ann Wixom has worked in a variety of fields. Currently she is a case manager at Lava Heights Academy, a private school in Toquerville dedicated to the performing arts. Previously she was a code enforcement officer and administrative assistant for the Hurricane City Police Department. Prior to moving to Southern Utah, she owned a vending business in Ogden.
For the last nine years, the LaVerkin community has been accepting of Ann Wixom and her family, which includes her husband, Rick Wixom, three sons and two daughters. No event showed that more than when her family’s house burned down approximately three years ago. First of all, neighbors driving by “saved them,” she said, with eyes tearing up.
“We barely got out,” Ann Wixom said; she was treated for smoke inhalation after the blaze.
After the disaster, people in the community banded together to aid the family. She said people constantly asked what they could do to help and, when they were renting while their home was rebuilt, neighbors supplied furniture, dishes, pans and other necessities.
“I don’t know how to begin to repay people,” Ann Wixom said.
From the experience, Ann Wixom said she and her family learned of the strength they had to get through things and most of all that being positive amid such trials is essential. For instance, she said, a counselor told them to think of three positives for every negative, words they have lived by ever since.
Ann and Rick Wixom have done their best to inspire their children to be positive forces in the community.
“My mom is super community-service oriented,” her son, Hunter Wixom, 23, said.
She made sure her children knew what her expectations were, her son said, “she let us know if we were not living up to it.”
“We give back to the community,” Ann Wixom said. “Living in a community doesn’t just mean you have a house there.”
Ann Wixom currently serves as the chairwoman of the city’s Fourth of July committee and her children know they are expected to help. Her two daughters, ages 12 and 10, have even been attending city council meetings to understand what is going on in the community.
Her family is very supportive of her mayoral aspirations, Ann Wixom said; if they weren’t, she wouldn’t be running, she said.
“While the kids may not know all that being a mayor entails,” her husband Rick Wixom said, “they love and support their mom in everything she does.”
“There is not a question in their minds about me doing it,” she said.
She is running for mayor because she loves the community and sees things she wants to change and does not want to be one of the ones just sitting around, Ann Wixom said. The city is at a pivotal point in which it needs to expand its tax base without affecting the make-up of the community, she said, that she feels she can bring new ideas and a different perspective to the table.
“She’s not afraid to tell it like it is,” her son, Hunter Wixom, said. “She tries to keep it straightforward.”
“She is very organized and she has had a great deal of experience working with cities and the people they serve,” Rick Wixom said of his wife. “She understands how to not only identify problems, but can identify and implement solutions.”
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