Kelcie Hartley, Daily Herald
Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee is no stranger to campaign season. Lee has been a commissioner for almost eight years and hopes to be re-elected for a third term to address housing, water and mental health issues within the county.
Lee is also the chair of Wasatch Behavioral Health and advocates for recognizing mental health needs and providing additional support for people.
“We all suffer bruises and cuts on a physical basis, and we think it’s just part of everyday life,” Lee said. “We also all suffer from mental stress, fatigue, and I wish we looked at them as the same in the way people react to them. I’d love to push that thought process through so we can help each other. There isn’t a person who doesn’t feel anxiety or depression or get lost.”
Lee has been working on finding ways to help people with mental health challenges avoid ending up in either an emergency room or jail.
“We’ve pushed all our mental health issues out and into our emergency rooms, and that is not the place to take care of them,” he said. “We have this big gap between the emergency room and jail. There’s very little room in between to address those situations. In this past year, we’ve created a space in between. We now have a Mobile Crisis Team in Provo that is an equivalent to an ambulance for mental health.”
Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald
The mobile crisis team can arrive on the scene of a situation and assess whether mental health challenges are at play. Lee said this allows law enforcement to take a step back.
“If a cop shows up, that might trigger an individual,” he said. “Officers are supposed to keep order and peace. And a lot of times, they are called because there’s some disorder going on, so they need to be there, but maybe they can play a back roll so the MCT people can go in.”
Lee’s core issues were decided based on what he believes impacts the most people in Utah County.
“They may not be the top three issues in the county, but they are the top issues I can make a difference on,” he added.
Lee’s opponent in the primary race is Brandon Gordon, a member of the Spanish Fork City Council. Lee points to taxes as an issue where the two divide — saying that he advocates to keep tax costs low while Gordon may not.
“I seriously want to keep taxes as low as possible while still having the services that are needed for government to do its roll,” Lee said. “It just appears from looking at my opponent’s record that he has a profit for raising taxes. He’s raised them four times since he’s been a council member.”
Lee added that experience as a city councilmember is not the same as serving on a body like the Utah County Commission.
“I don’t fault him,” Lee said. “He comes from a mayor/council forum, so he probably thinks that’s the cream of the crop, but Utah County government functions totally different. Until you’re in it and see it, you may not understand how it’s necessary working.”
The two have never had any interactions before Gordon filed to run as commissioner.
Lee boasts the support of US Sen. Mike Lee — along with the mayors of Provo, Orem and Lindon, to name a few — in his campaign.
“I have been a part of campaigns practically my whole adult life,” he added. “I really enjoy the strategy of campaigning. I think it’s fun to sit around a table, as a political science major myself, and discuss why people think they way they think. One thing I like about campaigning is that you are out there with the public, and they aren’t afraid to tell you what they think.”
Lee and Gordon advanced to the June 28 primary for Utah County Commission Seat B after no candidate received 60% of the vote at the Utah County Republican convention. In the final round of voting, Lee finished with 46.4% of votes compared to 53.6% for Gordon.