San Juan County fills two key positions with familiar hires
Elaine Gizler is the new director of Economic Development and Visitor Services for San Juan County. Gizler, who will begin work on August 23, is a familiar face in southeast Utah as she has served in similar positions in Grand County and the Moab Area Travel Council for the past six years.
Gizler takes a position that has been unfilled for the past eight months. The prior director, Natalie Randall, resigned in late 2020 to accept a position as the executive director for the Utah Tourism Industry Association (UTIA).
San Juan County Administrator Mack McDonald is delighted with the addition of Gizler. “We have worked side-by-side with Elaine for years,” said McDonald. “She knows us, and we know her work. She serves on a number of important boards and has broad influence throughout the state.
“We lost so much with the loss of Natalie Randall, and we gain a lot back with Elaine.”
Gizler came to the Moab Area Travel Council in 2015 as part of a successful career as a global brand strategist. She has helped to develop brand strategies for Strivectin, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent.
While Moab and Grand County has successfully developed a strong global brand over recent years, a number of elected officials and local residents there express concern that the effort may need to change because of area capacity limits.
It is assumed that the economic development and visitor services role in San Juan County will be more traditional, with support for development of the economy and visitation to the area.
Gizler will not be the only new face in the county administration building as Lyman Duncan took the oath of office on August 16 as San Juan County Clerk/Auditor.
Duncan’s appointment was recommended by the San Juan County Republican party and ratified by the San Juan County Commission.
Duncan fills the unexpired seat previously held by John David Nielson. Nielson resigned as County Clerk/Auditor in July and accepted a position in the private sector in Spanish Fork.
Duncan worked in a number of positions in the health care industry in San Juan County over the prior 20 years, including for Utah Navajo Health System and San Juan Health.
These were not the only open positions in San Juan County government. Three key employees left the county in December 2020, creating a significant challenge in mid-level management.
In addition to the resignation of Natalie Randall in the Economic Development/Visitor Services office, two other employees accepted offers for positions elsewhere in the state, including Public Health Director Kirk Benge, and Human Resources and Planning and Zoning Director Walter Bird.
Bird worked for San Juan County for nearly 20 years. He took a job as an attorney for the City of Spanish Fork, UT. To replace Bird, Ann Marie Burgess is filling the Human Resources role while Scott Burton is handling the Planning and Zoning responsibilities.
The Public Health position is still unfilled, but McDonald said interviews have been held and they hope to make a change soon. Mike Moulton has served as interim director of the office since December 2020.
The public health director has had a high profile job since the COVID-19 pandemic. The office oversees the county response to the pandemic and weighs in on state level response as one of 13 public health offices in the state.
Additional openings in county government include a deputy in the office of San Juan County Recorder Cindi Holyoak.
There have been severe labor shortages in key industries throughout the county in 2021, with needs across the spectrum from the tourism and service sector to local manufacturers and local government.