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Davis County duo calls for youth involvement among women voters

BOUNTIFUL — They're retired, politically active, Utah transplants who've made Davis County their home.

Spitfires in their 70s, for sure.

Kathy Stockel, 72, has lived in 16 states, though she's called Utah — specifically North Salt Lake — home since 2007.

Ann Johnson, 76, has been a Bountiful resident for the past nine years.

Today, they share the title of co-president of the League of Women Voters of Davis County.

It's an organization Stockel first got involved with back in 1980 while living in North Dakota, she said, though "I haven't been involved the whole time."

Stockel retired four years ago, and she decided to reach out to the league.

Johnson retired in 2003, she said, and that's when she went online and joined the national League of Women Voters.

"I wanted to participate because I know what they've done for years," she said Saturday during a meeting at the South Davis Metro Fire Station.

Over the years, Johnson "just kept getting more and more interested" in the League of Women Voters and now finds herself leading the Davis County chapter.

She also issued a call to young women voters in Davis County to become more involved, noting the spattering of under-30 residents in attendance Saturday.

"We are getting younger members," Johnson said. "We obviously need to get younger."

The event was organized by the league to help residents better understand what the county does and the services it provides, the co-presidents said.

"We want to have informed voters," Johnson said, "and we want to provide them with nonpartisan, unbiased information."

Issues facing Davis County as the start of the 2018 Utah Legislature approaches, they said, include growth, transportation, the opioid crisis, cannabis for medical use, homelessness and "affordable housing."

"Sometimes that's a dirty word," Johnson said. "But people want their children to be able to live (near them), and they can't afford to live there. It's an issue."

Davis County hasn't been immune to the homelessness issues that have plagued Salt Lake City in recent years. Efforts to disperse illegal drug use and separate those needing services from those there to buy and sell drugs have pushed the transient population across the borders into Davis County, Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn said.

"We're part of the Wasatch Front," said Millburn, who attended the meeting and fielded questions from the audience but was not on the panel of county representatives.

"In Davis County, we need to be more engaged in that conversation," he said in an interview after the meeting. "Because it isn't just a Salt Lake City issue."

First-year Davis County Commissioner Randy Elliott assembled the team of county representatives — including the health department, library and public defender office — at the request of the League of Women Voters.

"A lot of people don't know what we do," Elliott said. "They don't know about the services we provide. As a commission, we're … trying to bring services (to Davis County residents)," and make sure the people know what's available.

Elliott cited as an example the county's Circles program, an effort that seeks to "inspire and equip families and communities to thrive and resolve poverty," according to its website.

"It's helping people get out of poverty," said Elliott, who sits on the city's Circles board. "They come and get educated on how to find a stable job."

Last week, the program had 12 people graduate from the 12-week course, he said.

"There have been several people in that program (who have been successful) in getting out of poverty," Elliott said.

The League of Women Voters of Davis County meets monthly, and its meetings are free and open to the public. The group does not endorse candidates, but it does take positions on issues that affect women voters in Davis County, Johnson said.

The League of Women Voters formed in 1920 as an "an activist, grass-roots organization whose leaders believed that voters should play a critical role in democracy," according to the league website.