Representing Weber County as an elected official has been and will continue to be a great honor in my life. As a Weber County commissioner and former member of the Utah House of Representatives, I spend a significant amount of time on Utah’s Capitol Hill working with legislators and representing the great people of Weber County while advocating for sound policies and spending. With that in mind, I’d like to share a perspective that seems all too often missing in the public media.

Utah is very fortunate to have a volunteer Legislature. And among the passionate speeches, energetic negotiating and incessant ringing of cellphones during the legislative session, you will find a group of legislators who are genuinely and diligently attempting to shape the best possible future for their constituents. I believe every one of them will acknowledge that they love this work and are honored to represent their neighbors, friends and family members. It’s an exhilarating experience to serve at this level.

However, it can be difficult too. Contrary to the perception that elected office is always a laid-back position, the job entails tremendous personal sacrifice. For the 45 days during the legislative session, spouses are left to manage households alone, business partners are asked to work double workloads, and sleep is a luxury only afforded at the end of March. Families sacrifice too. A family’s schedule is relentlessly built around the elected individual’s calendar as the elected individual’s schedule is built around the agenda of the thousands of people they represent. It doesn’t end there. Outside of the session, elected officials are on call around the clock to respond to constituents, resolve issues and review and draft legislation for upcoming sessions.

And what is our motivation? It’s different for every elected official, but I do it because I love working with broad groups of people towards common goals. I love being able to build coalitions. And frequently, after hours, weeks and sometimes months of hard work, it is tremendously rewarding and exciting when, as a group, we accomplish something big and vitally important to the community.

Yes, it’s emotionally draining, time-consuming and mentally challenging work, but do we as elected officials feel the utmost happiness and privilege in doing it? You bet!

My point here is this: In my years of experience as a voter, constituent, legislator and commissioner, I have come to understand that the key to a successful republic is respectful communication from all parties and all sides. As an elected official, I love talking with those I represent. Whether an in-person visit, letter, phone call, text or email, each respectful communication moves the needle in a good way and all of us in a better direction.

Don’t make elected officials guess how you would like them to vote, tell them. But be honest, straightforward and above all, respectful in your comments, just as you would like your elected officials to be respectful of your opinion. And while there will certainly be differences of opinion on occasion, you are likely on the same page more often than not.

We live in the greatest country and state in the world. As we come together with respectful communication, our interactions will be more rewarding and successful, and our potential will be truly limitless. So from this Weber County dairy farmer, I offer a sincere heartfelt thank you to the many diligent voters and elected officials who are working tirelessly to turn good ideas into great realities.

Kerry Gibson is a Weber County commissioner