ST. GEORGE – Rev. Jimi Kestin, a well-known banker and pastor in Washington County, has thrown his hat into the upcoming race as the Republican nominee for Washington County Commission Seat A. Commissioner Alan Gardner, who currently holds the seat, will not be seeking re-election this year, opening the door for a newcomer to the County Commission.
Gardner will be stepping down after serving on the commission for 20 years. Remaining will be Commissioners Victor Iverson and Zach Renstrom, both of whom were elected to office during the 2014 election cycle.
Kestin is a known figure among the county’s business and faith communities through his service with the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, the St. George Exchange Club and St. George Interfaith Council and nonprofit groups. He is also the senior pastor at the Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship in St. George, and a common sight at many public events in the community overall.
In a recent St. George City Council meeting in which Kestin offered the invocation, Councilman Jimmie Hughes said, “He’s involved in everything.”
The pastor is also a longtime Republican who has served in a variety of positions that included serving as a delegate as well as being a legislative chair for his district. He is also a staunch supporter of the state’s caucus-convention system and will be seeking the nomination through that route.
“First and foremost, I believe it is time to have people in elected office at every level of government who understand the core values we live our lives by in the community,” Kestin said, “and are willing to make decisions based on those shared values and who will not compromise those values.”
Those core values are individual rights and liberty, Kestin said.
“Freedom and liberty begin and end with the individual,” he said, adding that it is the government’s job to empower the individuals so they can pursue their lives as they see fit.
“Those core values are what have to drive every decision we make,” Kestin said.
Kestin said his experience in the worlds of business and faith have helped prepare him to be a potential county commissioner.
“I have a lifetime of experience in business,” he said. “I’ve been in both small and large companies, working for a lifetime on budgeting and management of people and departments.”
Having also taught personal finances for nearly a decade as well, he said he understands the financial side of running organizations.
Through his work with the Interfaith Council and nonprofits, Kestin said, he’s gained experience communicating with a very diverse group of people with a very diverse set of beliefs and backgrounds and has found ways to help them all come to a favorable consensus on various issues.
Being on the County Commission will mean dealing with each city and community and individual citizens about various issues, as well as state and federal officials.
“One of the things that is so important is to be able to communicate clearly and succinctly,” Kestin said. “… I think it’s all about communication.”
“It starts with listening to all sides of an issue, listening to concerns,” he said, “then formulate the best way to move ahead.”
For the everyday citizen, Kestin said he believes elected officials should serve the people who elect them.
While many elected officials may have an “open door policy,” Kestin said, he will go to the citizens to hear them out.
You shouldn’t have to track down your elected officials in order to have your voice heard, he said.
On issues facing the county, Kestin spoke about the need to secure a reliable source of water and gaining local control over public lands in order to ensure the future growth and prosperity of the county.
“A reliable, abundant supply of water is absolutely imperative,” he said.
Kestin supports the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline and said the county should work together with the state in paying for the project. The price tag attached to the pipeline has been estimated to be between $1 billion and $2 billion. Opponents of the project have said it may cost even more in the long run. As an alternative, they urge increased conservation efforts in the county.
“Conservation efforts are very important but we will never conserve our way into prosperity,” he said.
On the issue of lands, Kestin supports gaining more local control versus federal control.
“We must work to gain control of our own land,” he said. “Bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., that can’t find Washington County on a map, do not known better what’s best for our community than the people who live here.”
Specifically, Kestin brought up the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed draft resource management plan. He, along with many county and municipal officials, see it as a potential threat to the county’s growth and way of life. The draft plan covers the areas of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area and other lands in the county overseen by the BLM.
Facets of the plan, local officials argue, threaten transportation plans, municipal water rights, grazing and many types of recreation, including rock climbing, mountain biking, geocaching, target shooting and ATV and off-road use, among other activities.
“We need to proactively take every legal means necessary to gain what is rightfully ours – control of the land that we live on,” Kestin said.
Others who have announced their intent to run for Republican nomination for Washington County Commission Seat A include Washington County Administrator Dean Cox and former St. George City Councilman Gil Almquist. The other prospective candidates for this and other races will not be able to register for candidacy until March.
Kestin encourages anyone who has questions to contact him at telephone 435-669-9070.
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