Provo Detective Russell L. Billings of Orem, Utah is a Republican candidate for Utah County Commission Seat A, which has opened because the incumbent has chosen not to run again. Billings recently sat down with Clark H. Caras of Candidates.vote for a question and answer interview about why it is a first responder, whom for the past five years of 25 total, has worked undercover in Utah County, is seeking a commission seat?
Candidates.vote – “So I was at the January 4, 2018 Utah County Central Committee meeting in Lehi, Utah County, when you walked in as someone exploring the possibility of running for Utah County Commission. I have to admit, you made quite the sight with your somewhat trimmed ZZ Top beard. You were in a suit and tie though, although the tie barely showed from under the beard. And this is Utah County, once known as America’s most conservative Republican County.”
Candidate Billings – “As I explained to some ladies at the meeting that day. The beard has been part of my uniform for the past five years as I’ve worked undercover, assigned by the Provo Police Department to the Utah County Major Crimes taskforce. When I heard one of them had said they really liked what I had to say as a potential candidate, but I needed to get rid of the beard… I pointed out the beard had helped get seven pounds of meth off the streets of Utah County the night before. After that she said the beard could stay.”
Candidates.vote – “A police officer for 25 years and now you want to, every pun intended, handcuff yourself to a job as one of three Utah County Commissioners in a Utah county growing faster than infrastructure can keep up with?”
Candidate Billings – “In 1989 when I started working in public service it started me on a very unique ‘political road,’” Billings said. “My law enforcement assignments and experience gives me a unique skillset and political acumen to address issues and see opportunities for Utah County as its growth and change are inevitable.”
Candidates.vote – “I’m supposing working undercover for the past five years and in multi-jurisdictions in cities around the county has given an even more unique perspective? Considering many of those, both in the criminal realm and the public, open up a bit more about problems and perspectives surrounding them.”
Candidate Billings – “I can honestly say my work of the past five years with the multi-jurisdiction task force working with cities from one end of the county to another has given me the opportunity to see the best and worst we have to offer,” said Billings. “And rest assured we have a lot more of the ‘best’ because of the people who live here and the work ethic and just plain ethic we have.”
Candidates.vote – “Your wife Ann has explained to me that because of your most recent work, being undercover, you’ve had to be a bit circumspect about jumping into the commission race like most candidates. Most being able to do the “ta-da” unveil and say, ‘here I am and I’m running.’ But I guess you’ve had to be a bit more delicate about it because of the job?”
Candidate Billings – “I’ve been gearing myself up for this for a long time as well as my family and friends knowing I planned a run for Utah County Commission,” he said. “I work with a team though where we assist agencies (other police forces) in Utah County with drug enforcement, violent criminal apprehension and gang suppression.”
Candidates.vote – “What you’re saying there I guess then – up until now you’ve not necessarily wanted to appear on the front page declaring yourself a candidate and having 25-years of police work detailed for some of these past and potential arrestees reading about and seeing your candidate mug shot being featured? With things like that in mind, how has your family reacted to you trimming the beard up a bit and becoming a candidate?”
Candidate Billings – “I’ve been married to Ann-Celeste Billings now for 15 years and I could not have asked for a better supporter than her,” he said. “She’s been married to someone she knew people might want to take a shot at for years now – luckily they only did once and missed. With running for commission though, she’s behind me 100-percent in wanting to take on this new chapter in life.
She’s a four time cancer survivor and lived through some hell of treatments and she’s always been smiling, positive, and worried about others instead of herself. Ann’s already got our war room set up and when I come home at night we jump in and work together in laying things out. She’s always been able to keep me on track.”
Candidates.vote – “Okay, so you mentioned having been shot at once in your career with law enforcement. That begs the question, at least from me; have you ever shot anyone or had to shoot at someone?”
Candidate Billings – “Considering that yes, we do wear bullet proof vests and yes, we do have to practice at the shooting range,” he said. “The idea is really not to get shot, or have to shoot. And I’m happy to say I’ve never had to shoot anyone. That’s not to say I’ve not arrested quite a few people.”
Candidates.vote – “About that; the arresting people. I’m hearing that so far there’s been a good thing about you being a candidate and attending GOP Central Committee meetings. Is it true after you’d officially declared that the night before the next meeting you attended as a candidate you were part of getting another 20-pounds of meth off the street?”
Candidate Billings – “Let’s just say we’ve had some arrests lately where there have been some large amounts of drugs seized,” he said. “As for the correlation I don’t think so, since they were part of investigations the team had been taking part in for quite some time.”
Candidates.vote – “So at the Billing’s home who is it that does the cooking?”
Candidate Billings – “I cook a lot, but I mainly like to use my Traeger smoker,” he said. “I’d say I’m pretty damn good too. People love the ribs I do and I’m not afraid to say I make a killer brisket. Ann, because of her health issues over the years with the cancer, she’s mainly a vegetarian. And I’ve seen it with her health really help her; but I do love my smoker.”
Candidates.vote – “Besides the smoker what are some of the other things you do for relaxation or to get all of the cobwebs out of the head?”
Candidate Billings – “We have a boat and love to get to Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge as much as we can,” he said. “It really is a stress reliever from the work we do. Just love to fish and hang out with the family and the dogs in nature.”
Candidates.vote – “Family and dogs. That sounds like a good combination?”
Candidate Billings – “It is the best of combinations,” he said. “We have four children; Chase, McKenzie, Aisha and Griffin. Then there is Kona and Buddha – the Wheaten terriers and Boomer the Schnauzer. And everyone loves the boat… kids and the dogs.
In fact, we rescued Boomer and it was just last Sunday (April 1, 2018) we celebrated Boomer’s 105th birthday. And both Buddha and Ann can’t wait for boat season so they can both go paddle boarding. You’ve got to see it. Ann will be paddle boarding and Buddha loves to swim. He’ll swim out and climb on the paddle board with Ann and then jump off and swim around and then climb back on. He’s nuts!”
Detective Billings was raised in Provo and attended Edgemont Elementary, Farrer Junior High and Timpview High School. He attended UVU and Utah State University. And in between all of the higher education served a mission for the LDS Church in Curitiba, Brazil.
Candidate Billings – “It was in an area south of Sao Paulo where there was a lot of poverty all around us,” he said. “And yes, we ate some things people here would think was pretty horrific. Could never bring myself to eat tripe or chicken feet. So yes, I ate a lot of black beans and rice for one and one-half years.”
Find out more about Candidate Billings at www.votebillings.com and on Facebook at @billingsforUtahcounty
By Clark H. Caras