Updated: Mar 14
It was a tremendous honor to be sworn in as a member of the Heber City Council. Unfortunately, I had to join remotely due to COVID-19 protocols. However, the city staff members were very accommodating, working with me to schedule a time for my official swearing-in. I was grateful to have my family by my side to support me during this humbling experience. As I took the oath of office, I truly felt the weight of the role to which I have been elected. It’s true that we must never forget where we came from. Honoring our pioneer heritage is of the utmost importance to me. That said, the goal is to serve my neighbors by keeping us on a path that is always moving towards prosperity. I know how fortunate I am to have the support of the people as I start out on this journey. My hope is that we can all work together to ensure a better future for our children, and I am excited to get to work!
Our first two meetings have led to constructive discussions, even if some moments were frustrating. I attended the first meeting remotely, which created a difficult situation due to the delays while speaking back and forth. Prior to the meeting, I sent an email to Mayor Franco with a few questions about the agenda items. My goal was to better understand the purpose she was trying to reach with her presentation. While she did reply, she requested that I bring my questions to the meeting. Per her request, I made it a point to raise these questions in hopes of getting solid answers. Her response was for me to add my own agenda item to a future meeting if I wished to discuss the matters further. As I mentioned during an interview on KPCW, this is indicative of a bigger problem. We must work on our communication if we are going to be productive.
There are ongoing developments in the valley, many of which involve requests for annexation into Heber City, especially in the North Village Overlay Zone. During our second meeting, we had a long discussion about the history of the county, which included a map demonstrating these considerations. While it was very informative, these conversations gave me a chance to reiterate that I am not a proponent of maximum density. I am in favor of property rights, which are arguably at the foundation of the United States of America. The city has an important job to do. We must thoughtfully review each application for development, and work with property owners to come to mutually respectful agreements. If individuals or businesses want to build, the city must ensure that what is proposed will add to the character of our valley. Heber City must help serve the needs of our citizens for future generations, which will take collaboration. Working together to build a great community is the only way to move forward. We can’t vilify one side or the other. If we work together to help parties find common ground, we are living up to what is required of us as councilmembers.
One priority for the whole council this year is ensuring that staff sizes in each department are appropriate. As our city continues to grow, there are more demands on time and resources. It’s imperative that each department is appropriately sized to compensate for this. For example, the Heber City Police Department is currently short-staffed, operating with six fewer officers than it should be. While there are many reasons for this, one issue is a lack of competitive compensation. Likewise, our engineering, planning, and building departments must have big enough teams to handle growth that shows no signs of slowing down. Budget amendments will help us make strategic changes in these areas. We plan to address these concerns as critical needs in future meetings.
As businesses continue to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more important to "shop local". I hope to launch a campaign that will encourage people to buy as many local goods and services as they can. If you’re going to make a purchase, consider a Heber City business. This has a direct impact on our local economy by keeping sales tax right here at home. Heber City residents pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax to Orem, Provo, Salt Lake City, and the surrounding areas. The bottom line is this: We can provide more value to our residents without raising property taxes if sales tax revenue increases. What’s more, it’s an easy investment that has a significant effect on what we can bring to our community. From restaurants and stores to tourism services, we can continue to grow if we make the simple decision to "shop local".
On that note, I wanted to highlight the Labrum family car dealerships. Danny and Rachel Labrum have been an integral part of the community for more than 20 years. They have built a successful Heber City business that is always contributing to our friends and neighbors. For example, Rachel served on the advisory board to the local Chamber of Commerce for several years. They have also been advocates for and donors to the Wasatch School District, supporting local students and teachers at every chance. When I asked Danny, “What do you expect from your city government?” His response was, “My greatest desire is to work together as I grow my business, and do so in an efficient way.” I’m proud to know Danny and Rachel, and above all, I’m grateful for all they do to keep that special “Heber Spirit” alive.
In closing, I want to thank our community for electing me to this position that demands enormous trust. I promise to serve with integrity, humility, and a lot of hard work. I am grateful for my family’s support, especially my wife, Kristi. I know she shares in the pressures of serving in public office. My goal is for the residents of Heber City to remain proud members of this community. I am confident that we are headed in the right direction as we make all of these important decisions together.
D. Scott Phillips
Heber City Council