In middle school and high school, I convinced myself I was destined for the stage (#MusicalTheaterNerd). I sang in choirs, took voice lessons, struggled to touch my toes in ballet class, emoted fiercely in my acting classes… Then everything changed when I took AP Environmental Science at Highland High (go Rams). This led to my BA in Environmental Studies and ultimately my passion for Utah’s public lands. (As Ethel Merman might say, “Funny, isn’t it?”)
Given this background in musical theater, it seems fitting to announce my departure from Better Utah with the help of the Von Trapp children (take it away, kiddos).
Leaving is bittersweet. I’ve accepted a position at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which is great – because, like, public lands! Yet, this job at Better Utah has been my first “adult” job since graduating from college – and I’ve learned so much.
So allow me this opportunity to reflect (with moderately appropriate musical references) on the importance and value of local politics, as well as the scrappy resourcefulness it takes for nonprofits like Better Utah to function.
Politics – and Utah politics in particular – are sooo weird. As an Environmental Studies major, I never intended to wade into the political realm. I always viewed politics as cut-throat, mean, and confrontational, which was deeply unappealing to me. However, with time, I have come to realize the political realm is one of the most tangible ways to bring effective change on issues one cares about. And hey – there’s really no better way to learn about the issues and the players than to be involved in politics. (You also realize it’s not all cut-throat and mean. I truly believe most politicians act with good intent.)
Utah politics are especially cool – in my mind, anyway – because of accessibility to politicians. Interning in DC, I met with a plethora of staffers on the Hill, yet never their bosses. Since working at Better Utah, I have interacted with legislators at various events, interviewed them for video projects, and even picked their brain on issues I care about. Better Utah opened those doors for me, but anyone can visit the Capitol during the session to talk to their state senator or representative, or else schedule a meeting with them. How awesome is that? If anything, this solidifies the value of local politics, where one can arguably make the most noticeable difference in a community. Constituents have unique access to those representing them in state politics.
As the name expresses, nonprofits are not working for profit, but rather for a cause. Donors are essential for the life of a nonprofit since the intent of the org isn’t to raise a profit, but rather to promote a cause and support issues. Better Utah is no different!
Did you know Chase and I were the only full-time staff members for the better part of this past year? We’re fortunate to have great resources – an engaged founder, knowledgeable consultants, hearty interns, and an involved and caring Board. That said, I’m proud of the work Chase and I have accomplished “in the field” given our rather small stature. We – along with all people working in the nonprofit world – do it because we love it. We care about the issues and want our community to be a better place. And we work with what we have, draw on connections we’ve fostered, relationships we’ve developed. It’s a unique space – and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.
What Better Utah Means To Me
This leaves me grateful for having worked at Better Utah (and resorting to cheesy A Chorus Line references [see above]). I promise no one is making me write this. As the Content Manager, I’ve had the opportunity to speak my mind on many things and been given a lot of leeway – such as elaborating in such a loquacious manner via blog posts such as these.
Better Utah amplified my voice and allowed me to work on issues I truly care about. I published four OpEds in The Salt Lake Tribune. While this is a yuge deal for my lil ego, I also like to imagine what my grandma would think. Grandma grew up in Wyoming and moved to Bingham when her dad was looking for a mining job. After WWII, she married my grandpa, and eventually they settled down in Kearns where they raised my mom and her siblings. Grandma would read the Trib every morning until she passed away, nearly five years ago. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see my name in print – for the sake of the issues I care about, but also because I like the idea of making Grandma proud!
Working at Better Utah allowed me the opportunity to delve into an issue I feel particularly strongly about: public lands. The Escalante-Boulder region is of deep importance to me; being able to brainstorm how to elevate the conversation around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was one of the most gratifying projects I worked on in my time here – from helping bring attention to our report, as well as interviewing business owners in the region. I was able to meet some wonderful people in that process, and I’ll cherish those relationships for years.
Aside from these admitted benefits of Better Utah, I’ve also had the pleasure of working alongside the many people who make Better Utah tick.
I wouldn’t normally call him a comrade, but I’m currently reading 1984, so it’s on my mind. Chase has been my comrade for more than a year. We both care – a lot – and both enjoy working on important issues. The fact that we share a tiny office space also makes for some weird moments – it’s been a fun ride. (Unfortunately we never rewrote the lyrics to the infamous “Utah” song…but believe me, it was on our list.)
At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, I believe Josh, Better Utah’s founder and Board chair, is an incredibly noble human being. I’m inspired by his willingness to get involved and do his part to make a difference. He hasn’t been deterred from attempting to bring balance to an incredibly red state – he started this organization and convinced us all to get on board!
Our consultant, Matt, knows the political game (and quite frankly doesn’t mind a little confrontation, like I do). But he also knows how to take a joke. This is essential when working on difficult issues. Although he refrained from naming his newborn “Madison,” he has not gotten mad at me for calling her “Baby-Not-Madison” in retaliation. (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)
Our Board is knowledgeable and so willing to support our work. They oversee what we’re doing, tell us to keep up the good work, and occasionally help us hammer out an OpEd or bring in a few more funds to meet our match goal. Better Utah is fortunate to have such a robust Board.
We’re truly a team! We’ve had some important players since I’ve been here – interns who have come and gone with the seasons, and most recently adding Laura to our little Better Utah family. Each person brings enthusiasm, passion, and a willingness to work for change. In this political climate, it can be exhausting – but I’m encouraged.
And I’ll leave it at that. Thanks to YOU, reader, for being part of the journey: putting up with my monthly bulletins (I had a blast with those), indulgent Facebook posts, and tech difficulties with Facebook Live – among other things. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’m looking forward to seeing where Better Utah goes from here, and I hope you’ll continue supporting them in their efforts to maintain balance, accountability, and transparency in local government. It is ESSENTIAL!
Cue dramatic Rent finale (I spy Idina Menzel):