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For Logan Mayor Holly Daines, a Liberal Arts alum, the gratification is in the daily details

04/18/2019

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Mayor  Holly Daines stand in front of a brick building with a sign that reads,'Logan City Offices'
 

Holly Daines has done a lot of homework in the years since she graduated from Utah State University with a Liberal Arts degree. Now, she can say conclusively, she knows the right answer.

On life’s multiple-choice quiz, the answer is: All of the above.

Oh, it’s an essay test? Then her answer would be as follows: “Expect the unexpected. And then embrace it when it comes.”

“Did I go to school thinking I would be a mayor?” asks Daines. “No!”

Daines is now in her second year as Logan City mayor, which explains why she’s wearing a tidy suit and leaning forward with affability and official ease in Logan’s wood-paneled council rooms. But, she’d offer the same advice if she were wearing jeans and sitting across the dinner table cradling a hot mug.

She’s happy to share those words with anyone wise enough to listen. She’s most interested, however, in speaking to women, especially those just beginning a post-graduation life and bewildered by all the what-ifs that lie ahead.

To them, she says: Your community needs your unique voice. Your neighborhood has use for your ideas and insights.

The mayor herself is perhaps the most expressive and approachable example.

Daines earned her humanities undergraduate degree in 1983, followed by a master’s degree in art administration from the University of Utah. Newly married and a young mom, she returned to Logan when her husband, Peter Daines, finished medical school.

Her choice, she says, was to stay at home to care for her young family. “There were a number of years where I didn’t have a paid job,” she said.

Then, she discovered her neighborhood lacked a playground. “There was no park for my kids,” she remembers. “The city had land, but it hadn’t done anything with the land for a long time.”

That was the beginning. She and her fledgling co-volunteers began to learn what it takes to sway a city government. How does the city budget its money? What makes a persuasive lobbyist? Can’t the city move any faster?

Her volunteering hours piled up when she joined in the effort to raise funds for the renovation of the Ellen Eccles Theatre in the early 1990s. She was soon a founding trustee and chairman of the board.

During some especially busy days, she remembers, she’d hire a babysitter, sneak out the garage door, then circle around to the front door where she could get to her office unseen by vigilant children.

When she first ran for the City Council, Daines said, the only thing she felt she brought to the campaign was her volunteer work. “People obviously bought into the fact that I didn’t run a business and I didn’t have an MBA,” she said.

“But I had been involved in the community for 20 years. That was really my only qualification, but people accepted that as having value.”

"Women are just realizing our voices need to be heard like other voices."
— Holly Daines

Now as mayor — she was elected in 2017 — Daines is backing an initiative to bring more women like herself into elected office.

“Women are just realizing our voices need to be heard like other voices,” she said. Her job, she adds, is “to give a tap on the shoulder and say, ‘You should do this. You can do this.’”

Many otherwise great public servants steer away from politics, even on a city level, because they fear the rough and tumble. Daines nods in agreement. She deals handily with complaining constituents and messy city roadwork. But they’re not nearly the worst part of being an elected official. Campaigns, she says, “absolutely stink.”

Here’s a case in point: When a seat on the city council opened in 2005, 19 people applied for the position. During the election itself, only a couple of people “were willing to put their name on a ballot,” she says.

“I think people are willing to serve,” she says. “But somehow we need to be a little more civil in our electoral process.”

As a university student, Daines would have learned how governments function during classes for her minor in Political Science. For a high school graduate with a wide curiosity, that and every other class in the catalog seemed to beckon.

“I took a little bit of poly sci and took a little English, some language credits, great books and ideas, and then I didn’t take much math,” she recalls.

“I took a physiology class because it was interesting, and it was the one thing that kept me from being valedictorian at the end of the day.” Daines smiles at the memory. “I was just having a great time. I was learning, being challenged.”

Life continues to do its job of presenting challenges. Now, though, Daines’ multiple-choice tests are based on the countless details that affect the lives of ordinary people. City government is where the sidewalk meets the road, where garbage is collected and street lights continue to shine. “You’re doing the business of the people,” she said.

Daines said she’s sometimes quizzed by friends who are concerned at the thought of sometimes grumbling constituents and their often grumpier demands. Well, she responds, they don’t bother her.

“That they’re even here tells me they care. I think that’s a great first step,” she says. “If I don’t know about a problem, how can I work on it? We can’t solve everything, but as least we can have a dialogue and try and figure it out. That’s been a really positive thing.

“Government is where we bring our concerns and work through them in an amicable manner.”


Writer: Janelle Hyatt
Photographer: Simon Bergholtz

 

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