You can’t help but warm to an elected official who as a kid used to spend the summer at his grandparents dairy farm milking cows and every once in a while aiming just right and squirting a drink to one of the cats in the milk barn. As well as, he and cousins initiating each other to the Norman Rockwellian type tradition of… taking aim. Readying to fire. And then doing a hard squeeze and shooting warm, fresh, milk on tap into each other’s mouths.
Incumbent Utah County Commissioner recently shared those memories with Clark H. Caras of Candidates.vote. along with many others giving insight into a man who sits in governance of 520,000 people and by the way has a craving for black licorice.
Candidate Lee – “Oh I’m most definitely a black licorice kind of guy,’ he said, responding to my question of some of his favorite things for the sweet tooth. “Especially, my favorite is the hard kind of black licorice; but you can’t find it anymore.
And as for ice cream? Cookies and Cream is my favorite. I go anywhere they are doing ice cream and if they’ve got Cookies and Cream – that’s where I’m headed. I do like a good sherbet too though, especially a good orange sherbet.”
Candidates.vote – “So as a Salt Lake City kid you were shipped off to the farm as soon as things started to get warm and school was out?”
Candidate Lee – “That’s right,” he said. “My grandparent’s dairy farm was just six miles south of Richfield, Utah in a small town called Elsinor. I loved going because all my cousins were there. We had a motorcycle we could tool around on and we thought we had all the freedom in the world.”
Candidates.vote – “Coming from a farm myself where as a kid I milked just two cows. I’m still familiar with what used to go on at those big dairy farms in terms of antics and initiations. So I suppose you are too?”
With a sly chuckle, Candidate Lee explained – “As far as the ‘boss of the barn’ was concerned, which was usually my uncle but sometimes it was my grandma – nothing was supposed to go to waste,” he said. “When they weren’t looking though we played that game too. The one with the cats. Everyone should know, you have a dairy, you have cats. And when the boss of the barn wasn’t looking we’d squirt a little the cats way and see how they’d react; and yes of course, I had it squirted my way too – mouth open wide!.”
Candidates.vote – “So you lived in Salt Lake City at 5th Avenue and D Street until you were 10 years old. Weren’t you just a bit too much of a city kid to enjoy the hard work and what many would consider the ‘sticks’?’”
Candidate Lee – “No. I loved the differences of the two places,” he said. “In Salt Lake City we’d just be turned loose on our bikes and we were off and all over the place and downtown. We were free! It was a different time and city then and we loved where we could go and what we could see and do.
Same on the farm. Grandma would always make sure we had some money in our pockets and we’d fit as many on the motorcycle as we could and we’d drive into Gilberts to buy candy. You know the kind of place where the bell would ring when you’d walk in the door. And the wooden floors would creak as you’d make your way to the penny candy counter. And from there we’d head back to the farm and drink raw milk with fresh cream just floating there on top. It was the life!”
Candidates.vote – “You mentioned living in Salt Lake City until you were 10 years old.”
Candidate Lee – “Yes, that’s when we moved to West Bountiful (just 10 miles north of Salt Lake City) and it was like we’d moved a million miles away from everything we’d been raised around in the city,” he said. “My parents actually still live in West Bountiful and I’m in Pleasant Grove here in Utah Valley.”
Candidates.vote – “Ultimately you ended up here in Utah County and have spent the past four years as one of its three Republican county commissioners. What brought you here where you and your wife Karen have raised seven children?”
Candidate Lee – “Well, before here I moved to Rexburg, Idaho and attended Ricks College and then served an LDS mission in West Virginia,” he said. “Loved the place and people there… beautiful part of our country. I got home and came here to attend Brigham Young University and never went home!”
Candidates.vote – “You majored in Political Science at BYU and then opened your own heating and air conditioning business. And along the way you ended up helping get elected and then working for – Senator Mike Lee as one of his Deputy State Directors. Our question is… what’s a guy who has all of that in his background reading right now?”
Candidate Lee – “Oh,” he says excitedly. “I just finished the best book. The title is, “Exiled”. It’s the story of John Lathrop and his struggle in the 1500’s for free speech and religion in England. It makes me realize as I read it and as a commissioner; we are so worried about our First World problems and look at the rest of the world. They are fighting for their survival!”
Candidates.vote – “Seven children and the oldest, Joshua, just graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan and is a writer for and in the White House. That’s got to be a bit exciting, or was it more exciting to raise your twins?”
Candidate Lee – “I’m so jealous of Joshua’s education and the adventure he is part of by being at the White House,” he said. “He graduated in Political Science with a minor in journalism. And the twins – he’s on an LDS Mission in Tijuana, Mexico and she’s serving a mission in Moscow. Daniel is our senior at Pleasant Grove High School and Adam, the youngest at eleven is attending American Heritage. A private school here locally.”
Candidates.vote – “Looks like your family has experienced just about every type of schooling out there? One who graduates a college that accepts not one dollar of Federal dollars; then public and even private schooling in the mix with all seven.”
Candidate Lee – “Yes, it’s given us a chance to see a lot of what we do and don’t like in the way our children were being educated,” he said. “With the private school we’ve taken janitorial jobs in the evening to pay for the opportunity there. There are parents who we know are working two and three jobs. I love seeing that kind of sacrifice for their children.”
Candidates.vote – “So what is one thing people – even the ones who work with and associate with you – don’t know about Commissioner Bill Lee?”
Candidate Lee – “Easy,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize I own two sailboats and love to sail our lakes and reservoirs. We sail on Utah Lake here in our valley. In Bear Lake and Strawberry too. My brother-in-law has a ski boat so we love water skiing and wake boarding too.”
Candidates.vote – “Say you’re going to lunch with one of your constituents at a local burger place. Are you going to order a hamburger or a cheeseburger? And what would you say is your favorite thing to eat or style of food?”
Candidate Lee – “With the dairy in my background I’m of course a cheeseburger kind of guy,” he said. “At home with our garden and food storage that we rotate we are self-sufficient and my wife loves to cook. Most of our food is from scratch and we grind our own wheat.
So my favorite thing is to smell one of her loaves of bread baking. Have it come right out of the oven and just put a bit of butter on a slice… it’s the best. There is nothing better to eat.”
Candidates.vote – “You mentioned having a garden.”
Candidate Lee – “Yes, we’re lucky enough to have a small garden,” he said. “Gardening and that garden is my sanctuary. It’s my escape and as soon as I get home I’m out there and in it! I love to grab a fresh tomato and cucumber with a bit of salt and vinegar and it’s a meal.
My grandmother always told us to make sure we were ‘grounded’. And what she meant was to literally get your hands in the dirt and to ground yourself.”
By Clark H Caras