ST. GEORGE — Utah Sen. Evan Vickers said that his call to state politics happened almost by accident. He was at the University of Utah in the 1970s, working towards his Bachelor of Science in pharmacy.
“Someone came in and asked for volunteers for the student senate,” Vickers told St. George News. “I raised my hand. That’s how I began.”
Since then, Vickers, who runs and owns Bulloch’s Drug Store in Cedar City, went on to serve 12 years on the City Council. He also ran for mayor of Cedar City. While he didn’t win that particular election, Vickers said he actually “won by losing.”
“It was a cordial race, and it prepared me for the work I’d have to do to transition from local politics to the state Legislature. The Legislature is a different animal.”
Vickers joined the state House of Representatives in 2009 alongside fellow Southern Utah politician Don Ipson. They were both astute students of politics, Vickers said, but they weren’t fully aware of what they’d gotten themselves into.
“It was all Greek,” Vickers said, “and we were fed by firehose.”
While Vickers said he struggled to grasp all of the information flowing through the ever-growing stack of bills, he learned a few tricks along the way from former Utah Sen. John Valentine.
“He could spend 10 minutes reading a bill and glean the most important points,” Vickers said, adding that Valentine’s advice was to read the legislation’s short title. “It’s all there.”
Vickers said he learned something from his dad too.
“He said you need to know everybody from the shoe-shine guy to the janitor,” Vickers said. “People talk to the shoe-shine guy all day. Nobody talks to the janitor, but he listens too. You can glean useful information from both of them.”
Vickers, who was born in Panguitch but raised in Beaver, was a member of the House for four years before he joined the state Senate in 2013 for the district that encompasses portions of Washington, Iron and Beaver counties. Since then he’s been appointed to three committees: Government Operations and Political Subdivisions; Senate Health and Human Services; and Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment. He was also appointed to the Legislative Management Committee, a leadership position.
To earn his spot in the latter, Vickers said he had to learn how to collaborate as well as lead.
“To chair a committee, you’ve got to learn how to avoid personality conflicts,” he said. “You’ve got make sure there’s an open dialogue while also remaining professional. It’s not personal, it’s policy.”
Vickers said that SB195, which he sponsored in the 2021 Legislature, showed what could be done when people who have varied opinions work to find compromise. Vickers said the Utah governor previously had too much power in cases of emergency, so he sought to limit some of those powers and find balance between local and state government via SB195.
“There were lots of different opinions on this,” Vickers said. “It was a hard piece of legislation to draft, let alone get passed. But in the end we did it.”
Vickers said he received some criticism this past legislative session, which reminded him of his dad’s words.
“After the George Floyd killing,” Vickers said, “we had a lot of discussions around race. Many of the minority members have a different understanding of these issues than I did, being from rural Utah. You’ve got to know the thoughts and approaches of others to understand them and what they need.”
This, Vickers said, leads to better legislation.
“If we don’t listen, how can we do that?” Vickers asked.
This story is part of a weekly St. George News series highlighting the lives and backgrounds of Utah lawmakers who represent people in Washington and Iron counties. See previous entries below.
- Rep. Travis Seegmiller strives to balance past, present and future
- Amid contentious issues, Southern Utah Rep. Brad Last keeps his eyes on the numbers
- ‘It’s all about the timing’: Rep. Walt Brooks tries to clean the pipes of politics
- ‘Early intervention is the key’: Rep. Lowry Snow advocates for justice and education reform
- ‘We all should do our part’: Rep. Rex Shipp strives to protect the things he loves about Cedar City
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