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Taylorsville Journal

Taylorsville contracts with a lobbyist to tout city among state lawmakers

Oct 05, 2018 03:40PM ● By Jana Klopsch

After being short on representation during the state legislative session for the past few years, Taylorsville City will once again have a lobbyist working Utah’s Capitol Hill next year. (Google)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

A veteran government affairs specialist has been contracted by Taylorsville to do the city’s bidding at the upcoming state legislative session, and elsewhere, as a lobbyist.

Father of three and grandpa to five, John Hiskey, only thought he was retired, after Taylorsville City Attorney Tracy Cowdell and Mayor Kristie Overson got ahold of him.

“I used to work for Sandy City when Tracy’s dad was on the city council there,” Hiskey said. “I knew [Cowdell] fairly well too. But I have to admit, his call surprised me.”

That initial call led to Hiskey interviewing with Overson and signing a one-year, renewable contract to represent Taylorsville in a variety of ways.

“(Hiskey) is our new lobbyist, hired primarily to help give us a voice on (Utah’s Capitol) Hill,” Overson said. “Taylorsville had this position well-funded several years ago. Then, the recession forced that budget to be cut. But I lobbied the city council to restore at least a portion of it going into the new legislative session, because other (Salt Lake Valley) cities do it, and we need to keep up with them.”

The Taylorsville lobbyist budget in recent years has looked much like a roller coaster track. A decade ago, the budget was at the top of the first hill, at $220,000 per year. But the recession acted as the coaster’s first big drop, with the lobbying budget slashed to $80,000 in 2012. Later, it was cut even further to $35,000.

“I was on the city council when those lobbying budget cuts had to be made,” Overson added. “I didn’t like it, because the cuts decreased the city’s presence at the state legislature. But that was the economy at the time. Now that it has improved, I made a pitch to the council a few months ago to increase the lobbyist budget.”

Overson asked the Taylorsville City Council to raise that second roller coaster hill to a $75,000 annual budget. But they sweetened the pot even more, settling on a $100,000 lobbying budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year, which runs through June 30.

“The mayor made a good case for the importance of maintaining a presence at the state legislature through a lobbyist,” Councilman Ernest Burgess said. “As (the council) looked at the budget numbers, we decided we could put a little more money into that budget than she was requesting.”

Overson believes it’s a wise move.

“I think, for every dollar you invest in a lobbyist for our city, the return is 10-fold,” Overson said. “We need to make sure we are keeping up with other cities, as they seek funding for many different things. And we will be tracking the lobbying numbers. Next year, I will report to the council exactly what funding and other benefits the city received through our lobbying efforts. Then they will have to decide whether it is worth renewing the contract.”

The value of John Hiskey’s lobbying contract is only a portion of the $100,000 budget the council approved.

“We will have some leftover money in the budget to work with, as issues arise,” Overson said.

One of the city’s primary concerns in gaining funding consideration is related to the bus rapid transit route, expected to impact 4700 South. Among other things, the line is intended to improve public transportation to the Salt Lake Community College Redwood Campus in Taylorsville.

Hiskey officially began his contract lobbyist work for the city Aug. 1. The Highland High School and Westminster College graduate said it’s been a busy first couple of months.

“They found me a spare desk at the city office, but I’m really not there much,” Hiskey said. “My initial marching orders were to get to know more about Unified Police and Fire, to learn about various governmental boards that impact the city and to begin to look for possible funding opportunities for various city projects.”

Hiskey began his government affairs career more than 40 years ago, working economic development for Salt Lake City. He ended up with three different jobs in the city, before spending time with the county, even serving as an interim county commissioner. Before “supposedly” retiring, Hiskey worked in government relations and was deputy mayor for a time in Sandy.

“Here in Taylorsville, I am finding a lot of good people who want to do what they can to improve their community,” Hiskey said. “There are many good recreational opportunities in the city. And certainly the new performing arts center (to be completed in 2020) will be remarkable. Taylorsville has a lot to offer, and I look forward to representing the city at the state legislature and other places.”

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