When I was 7 or 8 years old, my maternal grandfather, Arden Stevens, walked me out to the edge of Driggs and pointed out a Western Meadowlark. “Do you know what that bird is singing?” he said to me. I said no. He said, “that bird is singing Teton Valley is a pretty little place.” That refrain has stuck with me all my days.
My life has shown me that facing our present challenges requires the wisdom of past and future generations alike. My grandfathers taught me about the special nature of Teton Valley. My grandchildren are expanding my understanding of social justice.
Teton Valley has always been my home, a place and a people that I love very dearly. When I was around 12, I recall taking a jon boat out from my paternal grandfather’s fishing lodge on the Teton River, Alma Kunz’s Teton Valley Lodge, to check out the nesting geese and sandhill cranes. My love for the nature and people of this valley led me to devote my career to public service through nonprofits, science, and education.
I have tried to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather Stevens who served the public most of his career, including two terms as Teton County Sheriff, and later my step-dad, Gary Henrie, who was the Teton County Fire Chief for 40 years.
My own public service has been through nonprofit organizations. There I learned how to start, grow and manage businesses. I was the founding Board President and then 17-year Executive Director of the Teton Regional Land Trust, which employs 11 local staff. Later I served a decade as Executive Director of the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, an international land trust partnership, where I was able to convene people with diverse interests around a shared goal.
I am a conservation biologist by calling and training, and have published scientific research on bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and other species. Some of my local volunteer roles have been with the local Sportsman's Club, 4-H, ski patrol, first aid, hospice, CTV, TVTAP, VARD, the Hospital Board, forming the Community Foundation, and serving on county land use planning committees.
My beloved wife and I live in the Darby area of Teton Valley where we share our passion for outdoor recreation year-round. We have three grown children and six of the most amazing grandchildren on planet earth, much-loved grandchildren who are expanding my understanding of pressing needs for social justice. My grandson Elliot’s struggles with disabilities have highlighted the challenges faced by that community. Two of my young granddaughters, Lucia and Ana, are dynamic Latinas who have already experienced racism at an early age.
The lesson learned: if we lift-up those who need an extra hand, we lift-up everyone. By way of analogy, a sidewalk curb designed for wheelchair access also benefits the mother pushing a stroller and the cyclist exiting the highway. We all need access to quality lives for our families.
After retiring last year, I am finding myself drawn yet again to public service. Finding common ground has been a common thread throughout my career, and I am ready to address this pressing need here at home as your Teton County Commissioner.