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Draper Journal

Get to know County Councilmember Laurie Stringham, an eclectic mix of skills, hobbies and experience

Feb 29, 2024 12:14PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen

County Councilmember Laurie Stringham participated in the first urban skijoring event in downtown SLC in February. (Photo courtesy Laurie Stringham)

An eclectic mix of skills, experience and hobbies are stitched together in Laurie Stringham, Salt Lake County Councilmember since 2021 and newly-reelected council chair.

 Uniquely, Stringham is the first ever at-large member of council to be elected from the valley’s west side. Stringham raised her family in Kearns and still lives there with three of her five children. 

Of note, there are three at-large members on the county council who serve six-year terms and represent the entire county. The other two at-large members are Suzanne Harrison and Jim Bradley.

 Her election was also unusual in that she unseated an existing member of council, Democrat Shireen Ghorbani, who had outspent Stringham in the campaign seven to one.

 “I think people responded to me when I told them that the westside needs a voice,” Stringham answered when questioned about the upset. “Even when I campaigned on the eastside I told people, 'You know you need a voice [on council] from the westside because you’d feel bad if you weren’t represented, and many issues that affect the westside also affect you.’” 

Stringham is Republican and a fiscal conservative, indicating, “Both people and the government should save up for what they need and pay for what they have.” She believes that residents were concerned about the 7.8% property tax increase that was implemented by the county the year before her election. “People want county services and consistently vote for the benefits provided by say, the ZAP tax but they also want transparency and frugality.”   

However, Stringham is also socially liberal. “I don’t believe that the government should legislate morals. Parents should be able to raise their children in the way that feels right to them.”

  She feels this deeply as one of her five children is transgender. “National politics and the messages being broadcast are fueling a lack of civility and kindness,” Stringham said. “This is not Christian behavior.”


Her “cloak of many colors”

 Stringham is the oldest of nine children and was raised in Sandy. Growing up, there was never much money and she started working as a babysitter at age 8 to pay for clothes and spending money. Despite the tight budget, her mother (a Scottish dancer and accordion player) encouraged each of her children to play an instrument.

 “I play all the string instruments both single and double bow and all the woodwinds,” Stringham said. “I’m no good at brass because I can’t tulip my lips small enough for the mouthpiece, except on the tuba. I can play the tuba.”

  She took this penchant for the arts to college and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Technical Theater from the University of Utah, specializing in wigs, makeup and puppetry. “I think I’ve worked in all performance venues in the county, both private and public,” Stringham said. “And if you can believe it, I’ve costumed ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ 28 times!”

 She has also taught theater at Skyline High. “Public teachers in the arts are typically part-time employees, which I was, though they often work full-time hours because of the practice and performance schedules,” Stringham said. “I was a dedicated teacher and loved it, but I couldn’t afford to keep teaching those hours for the money after my divorce.”

So she took her skills to the University of Utah where she worked in services, which led her to working security/services at major events in both Utah and Las Vegas. She even worked security at the most recent Super Bowl.   


Track record

At her election, Stringham had served on the board of the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center and Ice Sheet for 22 years. Always an advocate of public health, she is proud of the work that she and the county council have done for public health by providing quality facilities and programing at county rec and senior centers. 

 She hopes to continue to bring positive changes to the whole county, but especially the west side of the valley. “Did you know that the majority of people who suffer from asthma and are hospitalized are from the west side. Why?” Stringham asks rhetorically. “We’re trying to figure out the causes so we can address the situation.” The county has installed air quality monitors on electric UTA buses to pinpoint the reasons and locations of the poorest air quality in the valley.

Encouraging civility

Currently, Stringham is working toward implementing a “pay for performance” structure for the nearly 5,000 county employees (some are seasonal). “We want to encourage staff to be innovative and invigorated and receive additional pay for taking on new projects or learning new skills, rather than simply receiving time-served raises.” She believes this will increase retention of quality employees who are willing to go the extra mile, which will save taxpayers money in the long run. “We want to fund services the public really wants.” 

She also wants to harness new technologies, including AI. “Every county facility is a storefront and constituents should be able to access county services at each...marriage licenses, bill payment, and so on.” 

Stringham held the role of council chair in 2022, recapturing it for 2024. Her intent as chair is to encourage and require civility, as she believes that national politics are fueling a lack of civility across the country. “In government you’ll never please all of the people all of the time, but everyone should have a chance to be heard and understood.” λ