Between collecting cars and running trucking company, Sen. Don Ipson seeks compromise in Utah Legislature

ST. GEORGE — State Sen. Don Ipson’s garage, situated on the north side of St. George, is a kind of time capsule. It houses cars and trucks from various eras, from a 1918 Buick to a 2019 Corvette.

State Sen. Don Ipson at his garage in St. George, Utah, May 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

When asked how many he has in the garage, Ipson demurred. “That’s like asking a lady her age,” he told St. George News.

You can tell Ipson loves the cars. They’re in immaculate condition, and though many of them could provide a fix for the neediest lead-foot, Ipson said he never breaks the speed limit.

“Or, if I did, you can bet I wouldn’t admit it to a reporter,” he said.

But those vehicles – many of which are Chevrolet – may provide a glimpse of what’s important to Ipson. They hint at a deep appreciation for things past, present and future.

When Ipson first moved to St. George in 1972, for instance, there was only one street light.

Three of a kind – early 1960’s Chevrolets – at Don Ipson’s garage in St. George, Utah, May 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“It was at Main St. and 100 North,” he said. This was before he started his own trucking company, before politics. Ipson worked for several years at Zions Bank, which compelled him to move around a bit before returning to St. George in 1988. Then he and some friends started D.A.T.S. Trucking Company.

“I was the president of the Utah Trucking Association,” he said. “I lobbied on behalf of that organization, as well as a few others, before I ran for the House.”

Ipson called his entrance into politics a leap of faith. Though he had lobbied for a number of years, he didn’t have any experience in local politics. Of course, that didn’t stop him from throwing himself fully into the process when he was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2009.

That same year, Ipson met Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. Though they were both born in Panguitch, they didn’t meet until the first night they spent in the Legislature.

“We have a number of connections in Panguitch,” Ipson said. “We should have met, but somehow it just didn’t happen.”

He’s made too many friends in the Legislature to mention by name, he said, but referred to Vickers as a brother. Vickers is one of the people who taught Ipson how to compromise and collaborate – without taking things personal.

Ipson bought this truck, a 1938 International, from his wife’s grandfather in 1968. A friend, who has since died, built the small-block Chevrolet engine Ipson put into the truck. Photo taken at Ipson’s garage in St. George, Utah, May 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“If everybody agreed, we wouldn’t need 104 legislators,” Ipson joked. “The more eyes and ears you get on a bill, the more you draft it, the better it gets.”

Ispon said that he strives to give voice to his constituents. He’s on 13 committees, which requires that he keep in mind the needs of constituents in various sectors.

For instance, he still considers the needs of truckers when casting his votes. He mentioned truck drivers as one of the reasons he voted against a bill that would have eliminated daylight saving time in Utah.

“That kind of change would have been hard for truck drivers,” he said, “as they cross state lines.”

Now, with the population and economy growing exponentially, there appears to be a battle brewing between long-time residents and transplants. The term “Dixie” has come under fire.

“Lots of voters in my district were not happy about that,” Ipson said. “So, I voted to bring the issue home and to give them a voice.”

Ispon said that Dixie is an important part of his cultural heritage and that he hoped to see the community collaborate to find solutions to the issue.

“I remember when we voted to give Dixie College university status,” he said. “I watched people mortgage their homes to come up with the money to keep the school from closing. Without them, it could have easily gone away.”

Ipson said that he’s never felt more proud of his work or the state of Utah.

“Our legislative bipartisan process works,” he said. “And, as we’re facing all of these crises, it’s our conservative values that have saved us.”

Looking to the future, Ipson said that growth is on his mind.

“We need human capital and access to water more than anything,” he said. “We don’t have enough workers to fill our jobs. The Lake Powell Pipeline could help us with both of those things.”

Still, Ipson said he doesn’t believe in moving too fast. Compromise and collaboration require more time, but they pay dividends, he said.

Standing among a fleet of vintage muscle cars, St. George News asked Ipson if he’d ever punched the gas on the freeway to see how fast one would go. He laughed.

The car on the left, a 1964 Ford Custom, is a replica Utah Highway Patrol Car. Ipson said that in those days, they were all different colors. In St. George, Utah, May 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“When I used to drive that 1958 Chevrolet Impala,” he said, pointing to the car in question, “I used to get chased by a car like that one over there.”

He pointed to a 1964 Ford Custom, a replica Utah Highway Patrol car.

“Then, I’d have to deal with him,” Ipson said, pointing to a mannequin dressed in Utah Highway Patrol uniform, standing near the rear of the car.

This story is the final part of a weekly St. George News series highlighting the lives and backgrounds of Utah lawmakers who represent people in Washington and Iron counties. See previous entries below.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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