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USU professor hopes to follow other faculty elected to public office

October 1st, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & photo by D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN — As a USU political science professor vies for a position on North Logan City Council, he becomes yet another member of university faculty to engage in local government in Cache Valley.

Assistant professor Damon Cann, who has been teaching at USU and living in North Logan with his wife and four children for four years, said he’s always been a voter and strives to be “a good neighbor and a good citizen.

“When I teach political science, I talk about the importance of citizenship — being a good citizen and participating and being involved,” Cann said. “When someone approached me and suggested that I might be a good candidate for the City Council, I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice what I preach.”

Cann said the person to initially pique his interest was Nancy Potter, a North Logan council member and his neighbor. Potter said she felt Cann would be a great candidate for a council seat, based on his common sense and level-headedness. Potter has also worked for the Alumni House at USU, and her husband Val Potter is a current USU faculty member and former mayor of North Logan.

Cann, a Utah native who has completed a bachelor’s, a master’s and a doctorate degree in political science, said his experiences in academia have taken him to places such as Georgia, New York and Provo, Utah. Wherever he has lived, he said, he has been interested in local government.

When he and his wife realized North Logan is where they wanted to stay, he said he decided to run for city council. After running in primary elections and winning, Cann said, now anything can happen in the Nov. 8 general election.

“I filed my statement of candidacy two days before the deadline,” he said. “We had four other candidates when I filed, and I thought, ‘OK, I bet we’ve got just about everybody.’ I just about fainted when I saw that 11 candidates had filed.”

Every vote will count, Cann said, because between him and five other opponents there was only about 20 votes’ difference. A total of six people will compete for three of the five council seats. Those who win will serve a four-year term. In two years the other two seats and the mayor will be up for re-election.

“We had three positions open and no incumbents running,” Potter said. “So I thought, ‘I need to be talking to people.’ I asked several people, so, I think Damon will be really good on the council. You can’t have someone coming in that has an agenda.”

The three primary focuses of Cann’s platform, he said, are prudent management of the city’s budget, maintaining public safety and putting citizens first.

“The whole approach to the idea is one of being involved and trying to be of service to the city,” Cann said. “I know a lot of people run for office with an axe to grind, or they run for office because they’re angry, and for me it’s a different situation. I would view myself as someone who is a councilman for everyone in the community.”

Political economy professor Randy Simmons, of the USU economics department, served six years on the Providence City Council and four years as mayor. Simmons, who used to teach state and local government in the political science department, said he told Cann that running for North Logan council would fit perfectly with his past political science research.

Simmons said he encouraged Cann to run but wasn’t the person who initially suggested it. Pulling from his own experience as a council member, Simmons said university professors stand to gain a wealth of knowledge from serving in local government, which, he said, can make for some good stories to share in class.

“I’ve known Damon Cann since he first came out of graduate school, and I’ve been really impressed with him ever since then,” Simmons said. “I recruited him to apply for his first position at Utah State; he is a great teacher and a great researcher, and I think this experience will only make him better.”

Before he ran for public office, Simmons said he had to think about how taking such a position would affect his schedule, specifically the fact he was a full-time university employee. Cann said taking a position on North Logan council won’t interfere with his work as a professor. Nancy Potter said her position is not overly demanding either.

Ronda Menlove, senior vice provost for USU Regional Campuses and Distance Education, serves in the Utah Legislature as a representative for Box Elder and Tooele counties. She said she incorporates the help of assistants in order to balance her busy schedule.

“We have a good team, and the university is supportive of me participating in the Legislature,” Menlove said. “I hope all students, faculty and administrators will become involved in the political process. It’s important we have advocates for education who participate in the delegate process — become delegates, help to select candidates — so that our local officials, state officials are reflective of the values that we hold dear.”


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