ST. GEORGE — Standing next to fellow county officials, Gil Almquist raised his right hand and took the oath of office Monday morning, officially starting his term as the county’s newest commissioner.
While the majority of the county’s elected officials were returning for another term in office, this is the former St. George city councilman’s first time as a County Commissioner.
“I look forward to serving from Enterprise to Hildale and all points in between, because every one of those citizens deserves the county’s attention” Almquist said following the short swearing in ceremony held at the Washington County Administration Building in St. George.
Making sure the rural parts of the county are adequately represented by the County Commission is one of many priorities for Almquist, he said.
“The outlying towns and small cities, that’s where I want to be,” he said, adding that he’s met with officials in the county’s smaller communities and they know he’s only a phone call away if there are concerns.
Other issues Almquist said he’ll be focusing on in the coming year are matters of transportation, infrastructure and water. He also plans to pursue the creation of a county-level animal shelter attached to the Purgatory Correctional Facility.
“We need to get a hold of animal care in the county,” he said. “We’ve talked with the sheriff and others in the county about having a rehabilitation facility that will take burdens off of the cities.”
The facility could provide medical care and possibly adoption for the animals, he said. The county jail’s inmates would be a big part of the program, too.
Inmates could be put to work and be provided with an opportunity to “get out of themselves and serve others,” Almquist said, adding that having inmates care for the animals helps lower the possibility of reoffending and re-incarceration.
“It’s been proven that wherever those facilities exist in jails, it can actually change their lives and they can become valuable citizens again and not be burdened by their past,” he said.
As to the ever-present issue of the county’s need for water, Almquist said water conservation, which the county needs to do, has to be coupled with finding a new water source.
“Water is a life blood,” he said. “We still need to look for water. We can conserve, and we will, but we also need to secure water for the future in addition to the water we have.”
Almquist expressed support for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline as a way to bring in new water, but he also said it would be good to get more infrastructure in place, such as more reservoirs. Once built, a new reservoir could be tied to the water brought from the pipeline, he said.
Two years ago, Almquist ran against County Commissioner Dean Cox for the county’s Republican Party nomination for an open commission seat but lost in a close primary race.
Looking back on it, Almquist said it’s not something that bothers him, who smiled as he said he’s glad that he lost then.
“Losing by a little margin was actually fine,” he said. “I’ve told Dean many times I’m glad I lost, because now we get to work together.”
Commissioner Victor Iverson also congratulated Almquist.
“I look forward to working with Gil,” Iverson said. “He’s established himself as a leader in the community. He’ll do well as a commissioner.”
Almquist comes to the commission with extensive experience in public service, previously serving on the St. George Planning Commission and then as a member of the City Council for a combined 20 years.
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