OGDEN — Four new faces will be representing Weber County when the Utah House convenes for the 2019 session next month.
The quartet — picked by voters in last month’s election — have already started brushing up ahead of the formal start of the legislative session on Jan. 28. What’s more, one of them has already been serving, Kyle Andersen of North Ogden, tabbed by local Republicans last May to fill the District 7 Utah House post after Justin Fawson, who had held it, stepped down.
Another, Democrat LaWanna “Lou” Shurtliff of Ogden, held the District 10 post for five terms, through 2008, and was re-elected to the seat in November after coming out of retirement.
Beyond that, northern Utah lawmakers will hold key leadership posts in the state legislature in the looming session, which means there will be plenty of veteran lawmakers defending the interests of the area north of Salt Lake City, Andersen noted.
With much of the leadership coming from northern Utah, “that mitigates the effect of having so many newcomers,” Andersen said.
Still, Andersen noted the “steep learning curve” he’s faced in adjusting to the Utah House. And with four of the seven House members representing parts of Weber County new, or relatively new, there will likely be a different dynamic. Shurtliff’s election puts a Democrat in the Weber County delegation for the first time since the 58th Legislature in 2009 and 2010.
“I think sometimes turnover is a good idea,” said Shurtliff. New faces mean that new representatives with new ideas and outlooks can come to the fore, replacing long-timers who may “have agendas.”
Aside from Andersen and Shurtliff — who’ll take over from Republican Rep. Dixon Pitcher, who didn’t seek reelection — the other new faces will be Steve Waldrip and Cal Musselman, both Republicans who also take over from fellow GOP incumbents who didn’t seek reelection. Waldrip, from Eden, won election to the District 8 post, held by Rep. Gage Froerer, and Musselman, from West Haven, won in the race for the District 9 seat, now held by Rep. Jeremy Peterson.
Aside from Schultz in District 12, the returning lawmakers representing parts of Weber County will be Rep. Kelly Miles in District 11, elected to his second term, and Rep. Lee Perry in District 29, elected to his fifth term.
‘DETAILS ARE THE DETAILS’
Ahead of the 2019 session, Musselman, like others, is doing a lot of reading, brushing up on the issues and the process. That’s not necessarily unique, though — veterans and rookies alike have to learn the nuances of the likely focuses of debate.
“The details are the details and you have to delve into them,” Musselman said.
Similarly, he echoed Andersen’s point about legislative leadership being heavy with northern Utah lawmakers, boding for solid representation of the region. Sen. Stuart Adams, a Layton GOPer, will serve as president of the Utah Senate in the coming term.
Plus, even if some of Weber County’s representatives will be new, they aren’t short on experience. Musselman cited the community involvement of Waldrip and Shurtliff.
As far as priorities next year, Andersen said a focus for him will be juvenile justice in light of a seeming uptick in crime involving younger culprits. He’ll also keep a close eye on evolving plans to extend the West Davis Corridor, a planned north-south arterial, into Weber County.
Musselman, like Waldrip, said he wants to make sure the voices of Weber County and northern Utah aren’t drowned out by those from the even more concentrated population centers of Salt Lake and Utah counties. “I want to shine a brighter light on northern Utah,” Musselman said.
Shurtliff said education will likely be a key issue for her. As the lone Utah House Democrat from outside the Salt Lake City area, she also aims to work closely with Republicans.
“You just learn to work across the aisle,” she said. “I have always been able to work with the Republicans from Weber County.”