New county commissioner wants to focus on economy, poverty
MANTI—New Sanpete County Commissioner Steve Lund has some big goals that he hopes will help drive the local economy during his term.
Lund, a Sanpete native, said he’d been interested in and observing the Sanpete County economy for a long time.
“I’ve wanted to [be county commissioner] for a long time,” he said. “We moved back from New Mexico about 20 years ago, and when we did, I thought, ‘When the time is right, I’d like to run for county commissioner.’”
Things seemed to fall into place in achieving the goal. He ended up capturing the Republican nomination in the county convention, and faced no opposition in the final election. He was sworn in last Tuesday, Jan. 3.
Lund grew up in Manti and graduated from Manti High in 1978. He attended Snow College but moved out of state before he could earn his associate’s degree.
Ultimately, his passion for the physical sciences prompted him to earn a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) in 1987.
He says the school is highly focused on astrophysics and geophysics, a reason he chose it. And he says Snow did a great job in preparing him to attend such a school.
After graduation, Lund says the two disciplines that had captured his attention most were enhanced oil recovery and drilling.
He says enhanced oil recovery was fairly new at the time. Because the percentage of oil recovered from a typical well is relatively low, about 10 to 30 percent, he wanted to focus on enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide (CO2) as an injection medium.
The process of mining with CO2 can best be understood by examining what happens inside of a container holding a carbonated beverage, he said.
“It’s kind of cool if you think about it. When you buy a soda and look at it, it doesn’t look like there is anything in it but liquid. But if you shake it, it starts to fizz. That fizz is CO2 that has been dissolved into the liquid itself.”
He said the same thing happens in an oil reservoir. “If you inject that CO2 back into the oil reservoir, it absorbs into the oil causing the oil to expand a little bit, giving it energy so that it can continue to migrate throughout all of the little pore spaces in the sandstone or limestone. It’s really neat,” he said.
But oil drilling is only one natural resource he is an advocate of. He says coal mining is a “big deal” to him, not only for the local economy, but on a personal level as well.
“We need to support the miners and the power plants that are all around us. So I’m very interested in making sure these mining companies understand that Sanpete County is very appreciative of what they do for us and the income that they bring, and that our miners, our citizens, who work at these coal mines and power plants realize that we appreciate what they do, too,” he said.
Beyond being a an advocate for coal mining in general, he says he supports expansion of mines into Sanpete County and will do what he can to see it happen.
As commissioner, he says he would also like to do whatever it takes to help the county’s new inter-generational poverty committee meet its goal of reducing the phenomenon of children who grow up in families receiving public assistance becoming public assistance recipients themselves when they become adults.
“Our goal and what we are tasked with by the state is to look at the entire county,” he said. “We are one of a number of counties with an inter-generational poverty committee and it’s our task to look at our counties and figure out if there is something that we can do to help people come up out of poverty and be successful.”
Members of the panel include superintendents of both school districts, clergy from various denominations, and local representatives from mental health and government financial assistance programs.
“We’re looking for various gateways, if you will. We’re discovering what it is that drives people into poverty and what’s keeping them in poverty.”
Growing Sanpete County’s economy might be a start to helping drive success to some of these people. That’s why he supports creation of a business incubator, an operation that helps people transform their ideas into companies.
“We have a lot of really intelligent people with a lot of really unique ideas who can think outside of the box. They just need to have some place they can go to help to get their ideas started or help get their business started,” he said.
He says incubators are not just focused not just on business development but also on agriculture.
“There’s not a farmer or rancher who doesn’t worry about his inventory, who doesn’t worry about his cash flow, who doesn’t worry about accounts payable and receivable, and who doesn’t wonder what the market is going to be like. Experts from incubators will help businessmen and farmers become more successful.”
Lund is a small business owner himself. He purchased the convenience store that sits on the corner of 100 N. Main St. in Sterling, which now has a new name, Sterling Country Store.
He said he bought the convenience store for “convenience” purposes. “When I’m farming, and it’s hot, I’ll have a place to go and get a cold drink,” he said.
But really, Lund is a business man who takes the success of small businesses to heart.
“We always talk about education and tourism, which are also important to our economy and people, but so are businesses and agriculture,” he said.
While Lund is still getting up to speed with the slew of assignments he will oversee throughout his term, he said he is anxious to sit down and look at the fairgrounds master plan.
At this point, he says, the Fairboard is seeking to make the grounds more user-friendly and capable of hosting more than just the county fair.
“The fairground is iconic to Sanpete County,” he said. “It is a little bit antiquated and needs to be updated.”
Even with the laundry list of tasks on his plate, Lund says he will always find the time to farm. He owns a small farm in Sterling with about 100 head of cows and says working the farm is what he does for fun.
But he also says farming comes with a continual learning curve, and he’s trying to figure out the best approach to tending the farm, as he is with many of the assignments on his plate as commissioner.