Over the past few months, if not the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife Kim and I have spent some time discussing if Utah continues to be in our long-term plans as a place to live.
This is likely exacerbated by the pandemic. With minimal in-person contact with friends and family since March 2020, it’s easier to think that we could really live anywhere and keep in touch digitally with everyone as we have been doing. Kim has her “Constellation Club” friends that she “hangs out” with over Zoom and whatnot and I… have a couple of friends that I talk to on occasion. The joys of modern technology!
Since moving back to Utah in 2014 after I finished graduate school, I never truly expected Utah to be the place that I would settle. I spent a decade living in Connecticut, another six months in the DC Metro, and Kim had lived in Illinois her entire life before moving with me to Utah. But my family is here; Utah has always been “home” to me, and I expected to spend at least a little time here while my parents aged and, eventually, Lincoln would get to spend some time growing up near his cousins. An unofficial deadline was placed on leaving the state again when my parents were no longer around.
But that’s changed a bit.
I haven’t always liked living in a super conservative state, but we’ve made a home here nonetheless. When we bought our current house in August 2020, we figured that signaled some level of commitment to sticking around at least for a little bit longer, though buying the house was more of “we need a relatively affordable place to live and it’s easier to buy it from my sister/landlord than trying to go out into the hot Utah real estate market and finding another place to live” than any true desire to live in Clinton forever. All things equal, we would’ve probably bought a cute little bungalow up in Ogden if not under such a time crunch for various reasons, especially if I was going to keep working at Hill Air Force Base.
But that all changed a little over a month later when I was offered, and accepted, a job with the NCUA. While I’m still getting over the feelings of imposter syndrome 15 months later, I finally found a job that actually feels like a career and I’m excited for the next 15ish years until I retire. And the thing that is amazing about the NCUA is that I can do my work from nearly anywhere, opening up the rest of the country as potential places to live.
All that to say this: I think my little family and I are not long for Utah anymore. Granted, all those great opportunities with NCUA can’t really start happening for at least 18 months or so, but we’ve reached the point where it might be time to start looking elsewhere. We’ve started to narrow the list down a bit, and we’ll probably spend the next year or so trying to figure out what works best for us in the future, whether it’s proximity to new virtual friends or ultimate career opportunities.
We’ve tried to make Utah work, but the past year has done little to convince us to say. From poor coronavirus response from the state – including the state spending lots of money on a political crony’s hydroxychloroquine supply – to the continued scraping the bottom of the barrel in funding education in the state – Utah’s per pupil spending ranks 51st – to the horrible air quality to the state voting overwhelmingly for the worst president ever (twice!) – it’s time to move on.
I was considering another run this year, with intentions of actually running a campaign. In 2017, I posted a few blogs, made a Facebook page, and just hoped that I would break double digits in vote totals. When Mike Petersen, whom I ended the 2017 election 58 votes short of usurping in 2017, voted no on making it easier to vote amidst the pandemic last fall, I was all but ready to throw my hat in the ring when the ballot opened up in June.
But after the election of Spencer Cox as Utah’s governor last November, the other candidate in that 2017 election, Karen Peterson, was promoted in her state job and decided to resign from the city council. Her seat was opened, and I applied, ending up as one of five candidates to fill the rest of her term and (potentially) run as an “incumbent” this November for a full four-year term.
I had my interview with the other four candidates, and I thought I did an okay job. Granted, I didn’t have a slide show like the candidate selected, nor was my wife sitting behind me during the interview, but I tried to express my thoughts as clearly as I could. Maybe I was thrown off a bit by the format, and changed my “presentation” around anticipated questions, but in couple hour old hindsight, I wish I would have expressed how I actually felt. What I actually thought what Clinton needed.
Instead, I sat idly by listening while coded language was used to discuss an opposition to “affordable housing” for all the reasons you would expect to hear from NIMBYs in one of the most conservative counties in one of the most conservative states. About a focus on “growth” that didn’t address the finite space and water available for future developments. I should have complained about the traffic; that seemed to be a winning argument. Or talked wistfully about how there used to be farms everywhere when I moved here… but there weren’t.
Once there were five candidates announced, I knew my odds were pretty slim. I haven’t been on the planning commission for one day, let alone 19 years. And I’m glad that I was able to espouse my comparatively “liberal” ideas about building housing so all can afford it and trying to limit future growth based on dwindling water supplies. I was so flustered, I wasn’t even able to mention how the recent UTOPIA fiber installation to bring wireless to our parks should be expanded to our neighborhoods and offered as a public utility. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have helped either.
In preparation for the interview tonight, I reflected on some of the things I wrote 3 1/2 years ago when I was running for city council. Noble things like working for free and only serving one term to allow others the opportunity to serve. Maybe those things were too idealistic for a city that has a long-tenured council and mayor. Maybe it didn’t matter or the right people didn’t see those thoughts.
I used to be excited to see where Clinton would find itself in the next ten years, but now I am resigned to the fact that the people in charge are more content with the status quo, the constant construction of single-family homes on smaller and smaller plots of land that used to be green space, these new homes needing lush lawns in the middle of the desert for some reason. And that’s okay. It’s just not the place I want to live anymore.
The question still remains (for the moment) of where the Eberhards will eventually end up, and how soon that move is made. And I don’t know if the next move will be the final one, or if that wanderlust will result in multiple stops over the next however many years. I have some ideas, but who knows what the future will actually bring.
Not being picked, or even making the “second” round of votes, is not the reason why we’ll be leaving. That’d be a real petty thing to base things on, and I am not that petty of a person. It’s just the last nail in the coffin, the penultimate thing that makes it easier to want to put this state in the rear view and move on to the next adventure.
If you have any suggestions, we’re all ears.
Until next time…