Sheriff James Cordova presents a plaque of appreciation to Mike Milovich at the commissioner's last meeting Dec. 19.
Benjamin Franklin once said that, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." For County Commissioner Mike Milovich, this quote neatly sums up more than 20 years of service to Carbon County. The Eastern Utah Community Credit Union executive made the decision to step away from the county's governing body this year.
While some people may have disagreed with several of his decisions, he leaves behind a legacy of fiscal responsibility and structural renovation.
After serving on the Helper City Council for several years in the late 1970s, Milovich won election to the Carbon Commission in 1992. Citing a want to spend some extra time with his family as well as his position at the credit union, the newly-minted private citizen looked back at the last two decades and the change he has helped to oversee.
"The scope of the job was daunting at the beginning," said Milovich when asked about his first term as commissioner. "A lot of people think you just go to meetings but the position is pretty encompassing. There are a lot of strings. Situations which seem completely unrelated affect one another and it takes some time to get a grasp on that."
According to Milovich, the fiscal complexity of county government is all-consuming.
"People think because you have this much coming in that you can spend that much. However, certain funds can only be spent in certain ways," he explained. "And to tell you the truth, the county didn't have much money when I started."
Milovich reported that the county's total savings was right around $50,000 when he took office. Due to this modest amount, the county would often secure funds in lieu of the coming year's property tax in order to make sure that the local government ran properly.
"We had to float a note with a bank in order to have enough money to fund the operations of the county until November taxes came in," he said. "It was pretty dicey in the beginning."
In order to address their fiscal shortcomings, Milovich reported that the commission had to learn to say no. They also began figuring out different ways to allocate what budget there was in order to make the county run more smoothly.
While Milovich is a life-long Democrat, he is the first to admit that he is also fiscally conservative, a combination which may have led to some headaches and also a better financial situation for the county. Current surpluses allow the county to pay its bills and work toward expanding area services. Money is also put aside for a "rainy day," said Milovich.
He started his fiscal training early working for several local banking institutions as a young man after graduating from the University of Utah.
"You know, nothing really good happens over night. I worked with some great people during my time with the commission," he said. "And it's a job where you're constantly learning. I can still remember some planning and zoning issues where I was ready to move in one direction, only to have my mind changed during a public hearing. Several times we reversed decisions based on public hearings. Unfortunately, a large amount of people don't take the opportunity given to voice their opinion."
Milovich spoke well of the officials he served with since 1992, stating that their combined ability to come together and make decisions allowed the area to move forward.
While most have a tendency to remember only the good when asked about their career, Milovich spoke up about North Springs Shooting Range when asked about possible mistakes.
"I think it serves a niche for some folks but that's the one project I haven't been exactly pleased about," he explained. "It cost a horrendous amount of money and granted it is providing a great recreation venue for those who shoot. It's a wonderful range, it's state-of-the-art. Unfortunately, we originally planned for a trap and skeet range and an indoor police range and neither one of those have been built yet."
According to the EUCCU executive, the Carbon County Events Center has been a success, filling a need for the community as well as those who look to bolster tourism in the area.
"The downtown people wanted it and the travel people wanted it, but it does cost us money," he said. "It doesn't even begin to break even. It's a facility that is needed and serves many purposes but it's not a facility that is cheap to operate."
Milovich reported that current plans from new Carbon Tourism Director Shalee Johansen could bring additional revenue. Coming plans include taking advantage of the building's outdoor recreation capabilities including testing of rods and reels at the center's pond. A new staging area for a trail head is also in the works for ATV enthusiasts.
"The close proximity of the Senior Center also means that additional room their can be used for overflow from the Events Center," said Milovich.
When asked about the senior center, Milovich commented about the nearly constant battle the county has fought to build away from Price's city center.
"We try to put things in close proximity for people's convenience, but the fairgrounds stuff, there's was just no way we could have put that in town. The parking alone makes that prohibitive. The seniors love activities and with the center being there, they can participate in what's going on. They can check out numerous events and then go back and rest if they want to. I think it turned out to be a good location."
Since joining county government in 1992, Milovich and his fellow commissioners have overseen the construction of a new events center, senior center, ambulance garage, road shop and search and rescue facility. The county has also provided a home for Active Re-Entry and the Family Support and Children's Justice Center. While the buildings are something any official would be proud of, it's the county's financial situation which seems most important to Milovich.
"We are in the strongest fiscal condition we have even been in and what was one of my goals from the beginning. I set out to accomplish several things, to get us on strong fiscal footing and we've done that. Number two I wanted to upgrade our infrastructure because the county was in a state of disrepair. We took a lot of criticism for the ambulance garage, the senior center, the road shop, active re-entry, search and rescue, our intake building, but the reality was we needed those things."