McEntee: Political newcomer takes on cowboy caucus mainstay
Last March, Ty Markham was in the Lieutenant Governor's Office wondering when a Democrat would show up and sign up for a run at Republican Mike Noel's Utah House seat.
No one did. So Markham, who's affiliated with the Utah Justice Party, filled out a form, paid $14.50 and, just like that, took her place on the ballot.
"I said to myself, 'Ty, you know you run 110 percent.' I have to live up to that standard," Markham said. "If you do everything you can, and it doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to be. The key is, you have to do everything you can or it's your fault."
Wise words from a retired psychotherapist who now lives and works in Torrey, a lovely town right next to Capitol Reef National Park. It's also part of House District 73, where Noel has served since 2002 and is running for a sixth term.
To Markham, that's enough. She's a believer in term limits, transparency in government and, as part of the Justice Party's platform, restoring "true democracy in our country, which we've just about lost," she said. This is her first foray in politics, though, and Noel has a way of overpowering opponents. In 2010, no one ran against him, and in 2008 he beat his closest competitor by 9,199 votes to 2,863.
And the Justice Party is new and probably would be well below the radar were it not for former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's presidential bid. None of that deters Markham, who brings an entrepreneur's perspective to her campaign. She started a school in California in 1980, moved to Utah in 1994 and oversaw it from afar. By the time she sold it in 2008, she'd put 22 people on the payroll.
"In my mind I've started at least 20 businesses I think of all these businesses that other people may start, and I wonder why they don't," Markham said with a laugh.
These days, she works at the Torrey Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast. She also grows apples, cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches on 60 acres along the Fremont River and uses wind and solar power to stay off the grid.
She founded the Wayne County Farmer's Market, sits on the county's business association and sees many opportunities and needs for satellite college campuses and businesses in the seven counties that are part of District 73.
Call centers, for example, and global exports, including from American Indians, that would complement the region's backbone of tourism, recreation and hospitality. Extractive industries are on her agenda, but never near national parks, and they would have to be as clean as possible.
"People come from all over the world to see the stars and the Milky Way, to breathe clean air and drink clean water," Markham said. "We don't want to destroy that."
Now, she has her thoughts about Noel and his career in ranching and water development, and as executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District. After questions about his serving as a legislator and manager of the district, which receives federal money, Noel now operates as a private contractor.
But, Markham said, "It's hard for me to speak directly about Mike Noel. He doesn't know me, and I don't know him personally. I respect him as a human being. I think he has good intentions to serve the people."
But she believes she brings a sharp eye for the people's worry about school funding, given a dearth of private land and property taxes, and jobs.
As a businesswoman, Markham believes in cost-benefit analysis to determine what businesses would best fit the rural territory, including developing renewable energy sources. If elected, she also plans to meet regularly with mayors and commissions in the six counties.
"I'm a strong woman," she said. "I'm 61 years old, and I've been through two marriages. I can handle anything for two years."
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee