Rebecca Benally and Phil Lyman bid farewell at their final San Juan County Commission meeting
As the San Juan County Commission meeting drew to a close on Dec. 18, so did the terms of Commissioners Rebecca Benally and Phil Lyman. It was the last public meeting the two will attend together before their terms expire on Jan. 1.
The two outgoing commissioners offered their final reports and Commissioner Adams gave his last report of the year.
Rebecca Benally: It’s been a privilege to serve on the commission, networking, meeting wonderful great people, representing the grassroots.
We just had an event Sunday where a lot of elders were present and just their needs and hopefully, it continues that their needs are met.
San Juan County is a physically huge county, but I think through true collaboration with honesty, integrity, communication, and cooperation and then working with the Navajo Nation through MOU’s (memorandum of understanding), MOA’s (memorandum of agreement) and intergovernmental agreements it can be achieved and it can be done.
We have a new administration that’s going in. We have a new council delegate. So I think there is hope for change, for some collaboration. And what I have seen in the last four years was that San Juan County often gets overlooked and criticized that there’s not much that goes to the southern part of the county. But I think there has to be a lot of education that needs to happen – that the county does give funds for roads, for recreation, and for senior centers….
But I think at the end of the day if we can all work together in honesty, with no self-serving, it can be done. I was just amazed at how much the county extends its services through all these years, the last 20 to 30 years. But that story never gets told.
We get bombarded with a lot of negativity. Probably not so rightful at times, but having been in this seat, I see the hard work that the county employees do. The countless hours that go to services on the southern part of the county.
But I think it’s a great county. We have our needs, we have our good and not so good. But I think at the end of the day we can balance that by having respect for one another and working together because it can be done.
If you think about an elder in Navajo Mountain that is truly a resident of Utah and benefits from the services that they can get, whether we’re working on fiber optic to get internet there, whether it’s to roads, whether it’s caseworkers going out visiting the senior elders, and at that level they recognize the services that they get.
It’s just the few who tend to not draw that picture or tell that story. But having gone to homes and then seeing the different programs, whether it is the state, federal, or county, people’s homes getting renovated, a new roof, or getting wood stoves from these different grants and programs.
So I think to me, people in Navajo Nation can be on this journey to truly work together through agreements and understanding, but it has to be done with integrity.
It’s been a great experience. I think to truly understand something we have to ask to find out the information. We can’t just listen to a few; we have to dig and find out the real story. Facts. So it’s been a good experience, met a lot of great people, networked, and I know some of those relationships will be sustained.
I appreciate working with Commissioner Adams and Commissioner Lyman. You’ve been great mentors. So thank you very much, and Kelly, and everybody else.
Phil Lyman: Well, I sure appreciate Rebecca. [She’s] one of the hardest working commissioners in the state. She came at such a pivotal time.
I look back on the whole Bears Ears thing and a lot of things kind of lined up. Jason Chaffetz and changes in state leadership, it just seemed like everything aligned to fight that battle and Rebecca was a godsend for San Juan County and for the people who live here and work here and try to make a living. [She’s] just graceful and kind and professional.
Thanks for that, it’s been great working with you…
I got my house committee assignments. So I’m excited about this next chapter. I’m on the Natural Resources Committee, and the Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, and I’m on the Government Operations Committee. They named me the Vice Chair of that, which is a nice thing.
(These are) three really important committees and I feel like this is going to be a good session.
My whole objective is helping southern Utah and helping these counties. I feel like San Juan County is really indicative of all of these seven counties on the south end that don’t get much support. We’re very rural and very spread out and share all of the same problems.
It’s been a great eight years. I was thinking this week that I used to not know the names of all these places I’ve been – all the official names of these canyons and stuff and there are still lots that I don’t. But now I know all the official names.
And in a way I kind of wish I could go back to that just loving the county for what it is instead of having to know what designation is here and what regulation covers this. And who is in charge of this area.
From my growing up, it was just you go up to the mountain, you go up to the canyons, you go hunting, you go to Lake Powell. Now everywhere you go you have to make sure you have a permit. I think that it is a bad trend that we are on. I hope that we can get back to just quietly enjoying San Juan County.
The whole Recapture thing, I never meant that to define me but it kind of has. And tomorrow I am off probation…. The journey takes you on things that you didn’t expect but in hindsight such great experiences.
Working with Kelly (Pehrson) has been really a pleasure. He does so much for this commission and I really appreciate it. It just would not be possible without someone in the office overseeing things. And in overseeing the departments, he takes the heat on decisions that need to be made.
If someone has some bad news, he is the one who delivers it and really takes care of the commissioners. It’s a great friendship and I appreciate that and that will continue on.
Thanks, Bruce (Adams). I appreciate your leadership and your example. I’ve been in a lot of places with Bruce and if someone needs help, he is the first one to step forward.
He’s the first one to speak up for San Juan County. He’s bold. He doesn’t hold back. As an advocate for the county, we just could not have a stronger more committed commissioner than Bruce has been and will continue to be. I feel great about that.
John David (Nielson) and Kirk (Benge). Public health, that is one of the things that I am very very proud of in San Juan County. That’s a huge change. I look at all the employees and the new building and I feel good about that. I feel good about the changes to the road department. I think that we are just on a really good track.
Jerry (McNeely), it’s been great working with you and I appreciate everything. I will be closely associated and very very interested in all that happens here. I love this county. I love the people and I love everything that this commission stands for, so thank you.
Bruce Adams: I really don’t think I’ve served with a better commission than with Rebecca and Phil. They brought so much to the table that has been so supportive and helpful to the county.
I really appreciate Rebecca letting me spend a little time with President Trump. She tried to hog all the time with him when we were in Salt Lake, but she did give me a chance to get my hat signed. I want to thank Rebecca for that.
We have just had a heck of a ride, I’ll tell you that, for the last few years and it has been fun. I hope that we can continue to do good things for San Juan County.
We have a great staff. We have great employees. I hope that we can continue to support them in their efforts to make a living and the decisions we make as county commissioners…
I really appreciate Rebecca and Phil and being able to serve with them. We really accomplished a lot of things when you think about what we’ve been able to do.