‘I want to hear what they have to say’; William Billings challenges Brad Last for District 71

William Billings, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Facebook, St. George News

HURRICANE — Holding his first local event at the Quail Lake Estates clubhouse Monday night, William Billings spoke to a passionate crowd about what he stands for as he challenges Incumbent Brad Last for his seat for the Utah House of Representatives District 71.

Last has represented District 71 since 2003 and is someone Billings considers a friend. He made very clear throughout the evening that he is not running against Last — he’s running for the seat.

“I value the relationship I have with Brad and his wife more than this position,” he said.

Beyond term limits, the reason he said he thinks District 71 needs different representation has to do with certain issues and what he believes is best for Utah.

The major thing that differentiates Billings from Last has to do with issues they’re focused on, he said.

As a father of five children and bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Billings said he’s been asked many times to run for this position, but he has said no.

“Quite a few people approached me recently to do this,” he said, including some past and current mayors and others in town, which led him to consider running.

After receiving encouragement from the stake president of his church, he decided to run.

William Billings speaks to a crowd at the Quail Lake Estates in Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 10, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

In contrast to Last, Billings said one of his main focuses would be to fight to have public lands immediately transferred back to the state.

Or, in the case that can’t be accomplished, Billings said he would work to get the federal government to pay fair market value of the taxes that would be collected (if they were state property) instead of payment in lieu of taxes.

“That’s pennies on the dollar of what we would get if we actually had that tax revenue, and that revenue is what funds education,” he said. “If land is going to be federally controlled, but it’s in the bounds of Utah, then that tax revenue should be coming to Utah.”

People can expect communication from Billings, and in order to facilitate this, he said he’s building what he calls a “mastermind alliance” comprised of people who represent various sides of the economy.

“I’m putting that mastermind alliance together so when a bill comes up, I can go to the people that are actually heavily involved and care about the community from different perspectives and get that information,” he said. “So, I’m actually listening to the people of Southern Utah who actually know all these things.”

Billings, who owns an investment firm that specializes in retirement and income planning, said his work experience largely informs how he plans to make decisions.

“I know where families are and why they’re there. And I feel like I can really make a difference there as well as the budgeting process that goes along with it. I can take that into the legislature and help really dig into the matters where we can secure proper funding without requiring more money from our citizens.”

As Vice Chair of the Utah Republican Party, Billings fought against SB54, a bill passed in 2014, which allows for an alternative method for candidates to collect signatures as another method to get on the primary election ballot.

William Billings speaks to a crowd at the Quail Lake Estates in Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 10, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“I’m not going to gather signatures. I don’t believe that we should gather signatures in an effort to bypass the founded principle of the way we find our candidates,” he said. “The caucus is the link that holds you accountable to the people.”

In light of the recent finalization of the Trump administration opening Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for mining and drilling, Billings said this was a great move, especially in terms of the benefits of grazing for the land he said.

“We got to remember citizens are part of the ecosystem. People are part of nature. We like to think that we can blame people for everything when we’re really part of nature,” he said. “You wind up with forests that are just burning like crazy because no one’s ever logged it. Gardens have to be tended.”

Billings is also in favor of the Northern Corridor, noting that people need a way to get around.

“We keep penalizing citizenry for the bad actions of a few,” he said.

Billings’ main strategy for his campaign is in person-to-person connection.

“I’m approachable,” he said. “I want people to know they can call me, and I want to hear what they have to say.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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