ST. GEORGE — Steve Kemp has lived in the St. George area most of his life. His passion for Southern Utah and his compassion for the people who live here was the driving force behind his decision to run for the office of House District seat 75, currently occupied, but soon to be vacated by, Rep. Don Ipson.
“I grew up here,” Kemp said. “Forty years I’ve lived in this community, I care about what the people who live here care about. “
“I have always been interested in the process and politics,” Kemp said. “I was approached by a couple of elected officials six months ago who I knew pretty well but really hadn’t been involved with on a political level. They asked me if I would consider running for this seat … they thought this seat might become available, so they wanted me to consider it.”
Kemp, his wife and children discussed the possibility, knowing that if he did commit, it would be a large time commitment, he said. The Kemp family came to realize that if he were to run for office, this election cycle would be as good a time as any.
“My kids are kind of raised, I’m not too old, and I got really positive feedback from everybody I talked to,” Kemp said. “I want to be involved in making a difference.”
The seat for House District 75 is opening up due to a series of factors. After 16 years of service, Sen. Steve Urquhart is retiring, and Ipson will be running for Urquhart’s seat, opening up his own position in the Utah House of Representatives.
“Those were the dominoes that happened,” Kemp said.
Efficiency is one of the unique qualities he will bring to the position, Kemp said.
“I’m a businessman first,” he said. “I’ve built my real estate business around being honest with my clients, telling them exactly the way it is, whether they want to hear it or not. Also, being very efficient with our resources and providing the best return to them that we can.”
“I want to bring that aspect to state government,” Kemp said.
The tradition of Utah’s fiscal soundness is something he would like to continue, he said, adding that his focus on efficiency with the resources available would be of benefit to the state. Should he be elected, he wants to add to the body of positive work the Legislature has already put forth.
“We’ve got a really good group of legislators down here,” Kemp said. “The legislators in Southern Utah, they call it the sunshine caucus. They need to stick together because there’s not very many of them … our goals are generally aligned with northern Utah but sometimes we’re not, and sometimes we’re left out and we need to work together as a group to make sure we’re representing Southern Utah.”
Education is another area that needs to be addressed, Kemp said. The lowest-in-the-nation per-pupil spending is an area of concern; although, he said, the state does an admirable job of maximizing what funding it does have.
The use of public lands is yet another issue Kemp said he would like to delve deeply into should he be elected. The Lake Powell Pipeline is also a priority, he said. Beyond those issues, funding for higher education, especially as it pertains to Dixie State University (of which he is a graduate).
“I’m very proud of the fact that Dixie has gained university status,” he said. “I want to see the university continue to grow.”
Should he be elected, Kemp said he looks forward to working with the entire Southern Utah delegation.
“I have met all of them. From what I have seen, I have a lot of confidence in them,” he said. “Having not worked with them on a professional … or a legislative basis, I think we’ll need to feel our way around and see how we do; but, just in my conversations with them, I have a great deal of confidence in all of them.”
An issue that is a particular concern to Southern Utah is land available for development, Kemp said. Considering the vast amount of acreage owned by the federal government — national parks, national forests and the lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management — and then subtracting the lands that are extremely difficult to build on such as mountains, hills and rivers, he said, what is left is a very small amount of acreage that can be developed.
“By the time you work through all that, we don’t have a lot of developable land,” Kemp said. “For a community that’s growing as fast as we have been historically — it’s slowed down after the recession — but we are a growing community, we’re not shrinking, stopping growth would be very painful. A lot of our economy is based on growth, building houses, building buildings. Growth is inevitable and I think we need to pay attention … are we going to have enough land?”
There are mixed feelings within Kemp’s household about his run for office, he said. His wife of 23 years is a private person and has some trepidation concerning the prospect of his possible election, while his children — a son and daughter in college and two boys still in high school — are less apprehensive.
“My wife’s nervous, my kids are excited,” he said. “They think it will be interesting. We’ve had conversations about … it’s going to take a lot of time, especially this first year and the whole election … is going to be a learning process for all of us. They’re cautiously optimistic.”
Since posting on social media his decision to run for elected office, Kemp said that he has had nothing but positive feedback.
I have been approached in the last month or so by a lot of people. Very positive support — ‘you’ll do a great job,’ ‘we’re really excited for you,’ ‘thank you for getting involved,’ a lot of praise for someone from the business community being willing to get involved.
Kemp plans on making himself available to his constituents both before and, should he win, after the election, he said, adding that he will make his cellphone number and email available to anyone who wishes to contact him.
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