Think back to who you were in fall 2017: pre-pandemic and pre-cultural changes. This year seems to be another world. It was at this point that Emily Niehaus ran for mayor of Moab, a position that had been held by Dave Sakrison for 16 years. That’s when Emily Niehaus, founder of Community Rebuilds, a non-profit affordable housing organization, won.
Now, at the end of his first four-year term, Niehaus is not seeking re-election. She will be replaced by Joette Langianese in January 2022.
“It was an intense term,” she said, joking that we can count pandemic years like we count dog years – one COVID year looks like the equivalent of seven regular years. “I feel like it’s been a lot more than four years.
Niehaus first ran because she likes to help, she said. “Housing has been, and continues to be, truly the issue of our time. We have a set of issues, but housing is certainly at the heart of many of these issues. And that’s what made me run.
Under his leadership, the city undertook major projects such as the 2019 hotel moratorium, the widening of Highway 191, the purchase of Walnut Lane, the UTV noise ordinance, and the ban on UTVs. plastic bags. It has strived to balance the growth of tourism with the quality of local life.
“When you start trying to answer the question ‘what do you want life in Moab to be like?’ “You’re going to have more conflicts than you solve, but that’s okay,” Niehaus said. “The past four years have been, for me, watching the locals trying to ask themselves ‘what do we want Moab to look like tomorrow?’ And I’m happy to say that I have served during this time of transition.
Sun of Moab: What are you most proud of in your four years as mayor?
Emily Niehaus: I am very proud of the relationship we have been able to rebuild with the state legislature. I am very proud of the Moab businesses and service people, who make what I would call the most incredible hustle and bustle I have ever seen. We closed and got worried and, I mean, I sure didn’t sleep well. I don’t know anyone who slept well in 2020. It was that of the city. It was everyone in the valley, how we mobilized to recover from a closure.
I really want Moab to know how proud I am. These four years have been so difficult for the people who work in Moab, especially our service people — the people who get up early to serve breakfast, the people who stay up late to serve drinks, the people who have to. to make tough decisions about daycare so they can participate in our community. I am so proud of Moab for going through this pandemic.
Good things grow in darkness, like babies and like plants. I am delighted to see Moab bloom next year.
MRS: How do you think your priorities have changed throughout your tenure?
FR : My priorities have never changed. Affordable housing, infrastructure, development and economic diversification have been and continue to be my top three priorities throughout my tenure.
MRS: You’ve worked with three different city managers during your tenure, and you’ve seen many other city positions change. What would you suggest to future city employees to create an environment where people stay for the long haul?
FR : It is very easy to pass judgment on staffing, for any organization. The reality is that Moab is a difficult place to live. We see a lot of traffic in our valley all the time. It is a disappointing reality that we are seeing this turnover, especially in senior level positions. I think we’ve all had some sort of midlife or mid-COVID crisis. For the staff, I would say, make sure that working in the city is right for you. Make sure your basic needs are met as a local. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place, with a lot of amazing and breathtaking humans. If it’s the right fit, you will thrive. And if it’s not the right fit, you’ll bounce back.
But we have this housing problem that we have to keep working hard on — we have to recognize that preserving our existing affordable housing is the number one priority, and that we cannot lose any more housing.
MRS: Do you plan to continue your relations with the representatives of the State?
FR : It is important for Joette to feel able to be there and to have that voice. So I will support this. And I will help him when asked, to move forward with the needs of our city. But when you change jobs, sometimes you stay in touch with your coworkers, sometimes not. For me, I fully intend to stay in touch, especially with the cohort of women mayors with whom I have had the honor to serve. A lot of us ran and won four years ago, and when a lot of them ran again and I told them I wasn’t running they were really sad, but I mean to maintain these friendships, with what I would call my colleagues.
MRS: What’s your best advice for Joette?
FR : I’m not really the type to give the “do it” advice. I’m more like “I’m here when you need me”. And she has extensive knowledge of local government, having served on the county council, her experience in running a non-profit organization, her experience in developing the MAPS project. Our elected mayor has an incredible knowledge base, so I’m not sure if I have any advice. I think what I have is my commitment to service. So I’m here if she needs me.
MRS: Are you going to get involved in local government again?
FR : People get involved for two reasons. Either they are called to serve by someone in the community or by a higher power, or they see something that is broken and they want to fix it. I am the old one. If anyone asks me to step in and help with something, absolutely. But I looked under the rugs, checked the corners of the closets, and did what I could do over the past four years, to fix the things that I saw that needed fixing. . And now there will be new leaders and new board members, so that will be their role. I am not looking for the problems. But I am happy to continue to serve as requested.
MRS: What are your plans for the future? Do you see your future in Moab?
FR : I love living in Moab. I like the people who call Moab their home. I have a deep love and respect for anyone who is willing to work hard to live in a rural and remote community. It’s a big deal. And sometimes it only works for someone for a few years, and sometimes it’s a handful of years, and sometimes you move to Moab, you just think it’s a great place, and you become a doomed to perpetuity. I would fall into the latter category.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.