New commissioner talks of challenges ahead
Politics has always been a topic for discussion in his family, says Casey Hopes. Now politics has become a full-time job for him. Hopes, a Republican, is the county's newest commissioner.
When he is sworn in, it will mark the first time in decades that the county has a GOP majority on the commission.
Hopes, 35, is a foreman at Nelco Contractors. He says the experience has given him an overview of the challenges and opportunities of the region's energy industries. That includes not only development, but the environmental compliance requirements.
Hopes is especially concerned about the coal industry and changing attitudes about what has been the historical foundation of the area's economy.
"We are an energy producer," he stated. "But with the current administration attacking coal, we'll have to diversify our economy."
Perhaps the long-term reliance on coal and now natural gas have shaped the county's attitude on what it's economy should be, he suggested. "Maybe we have been complacent. Now we have to market ourselves."
Among the strengths for economic development, he sees railroad and highway access, and USU Eastern. The college produces skilled people and can train employees for any industry that may locate here, Hopes said.
He also thinks that attracting more visitors could be a precursor to other forms of economic development. Visitors who come for one activity will see what else the county has to offer for a business or industry to relocate.
The region, which includes both Carbon and Emery counties, is rich in history and prehistory, Hopes said. "The landscape itself is a draw," he noted. That includes not only the well-known San Rafael area, but geology of coal country as well. He has seen geology classes on field trips in local canyons and would like to see more.
He also thinks that tourism includes more than sightseeing. Baseball and softball tournaments also could bring visitors into the county. The North Springs Shooting Range is also a good way to attract visitors.
The important thing is to show visitors a good time no matter what they are here for. He likes the term "ambassadors" for the area, a term he picked up from the college's outreach and recruitment efforts.
Hopes has not spent his entire life in Carbon County or in Utah. He was in Nevada during his junior high school years and was in Nucla, Colorado for high school.
He got his associate's degree from the College of Eastern Utah, the earned a bachelor's in communication at the University of Utah.
He and his wife, Jana, also own Carbon Copy Center.