By Chris Larson
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — Who is Sen. David P. Hinkins?
If you don’t know, that’s alright, most people don’t know the names of their local legislators. He is the Utah State Senator representing District 27. That makes him part of the feverish law mill that is the Utah Legislature.
The Utah legislature passed 484 bills in 2014 (the U.S. Congress passed only 296), and Hinkins, R-Orangeville, is just getting started on another whirlwind 45-day session representing the interests of his Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, Utah, and Wasatch counties’ constituents.
Hinkins was born and raised in Orangeville, a small town at the edge of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, 30 minutes southwest of Price. Today, the estimated population of Orangeville is 1,450 people, according to the U.S. Census; however, when Hinkins was a child Orangeville was smaller still, with approximately 600 residents. From the time of his birth in the 1950s, Orangeville’s population has risen and fallen with the success of the mines and farms, which account for most of the region’s economic output.
This is still true today, but additional mines and power plants nearby have led to both population growth and the development of service-based industries in this otherwise rural setting.
Hinkins graduated from Emery County High School after which he received his degree from Utah Valley Technical College (now UVU) in Electrical Automation Technology. He and his wife, RueLane, met and were married in 1975 and have four children.
Today, Hinkins’ interests are multiple and varied. His first job out of college was with Harmond Electric, but a short time later he accepted a position with the Horse Canyon Mine. Rumors of the mine’s failure began to circulate; however, Hinkins didn’t wait to be out of the job. He started Industrial Electric in 1976, which specializes in providing industrial grade electrical motors to the mining, power, and agricultural industries. In 1980, he founded Industrial Mine Supply to fill the general supply needs of the mining companies in the area.
Hinkins is also a partner in Rainbow Glass Ranch where he raises cattle and horses with his brother, Ross. Rainbow Glass Ranch specializes in breeding and selling race horses. According to the ranch’s website, Hinkins got his start with race bred horses in 1978. The ranch maintains over 1,000 head of cattle and 200 horses.
In 2009, Republican Hinkins filled the seat of retiring Democrat Sen. Mike Dmitrich, Price, after strong encouragement by many in the mining and power production industries. Dmitirch, as a Democrat, often found himself in the minority on the hill, but became a popular fixture on Utah’s Capitol hill representing the historically Democratic district in Utah’s coal country in Carbon and Emery counties.
Nonetheless, Hinkins said that he believes he is able to best represent his district by being in the majority party. When pressed on whether he would have run with the Democratic Party if it held a majority in the state, he said no, insisting that his morals and politics do not line up with the Democratic Party.
Morally, the Republican Party better represents his feelings towards abortion, said Hinkins, and politically, the Democrats have made it overly burdensome for mining and energy production, two of the region’s most important interests.
Hinkins credits Wayne Nielson, president of Huntington-based Nielson Construction, as having been particularly influential in his decision to run for office. As lifelong personal friends, Hinkins and Nielson frequently tried to persuade each other to run for office. Eventually Nielson would take over Nielson Construction from his aging father, said Hinkins.
It’s no coincidence that Hinkins has received large donations from Nielson. Hinkins said that Nielsen was well aware of the senator’s desires to fix the roads in counties frequented by coal trucks, agricultural equipment, and other heavy machinery. Hinkins’ major push for road projects in District 27 enticed Neilson to donate heavily to Hinkins’ campaign.
In the 2014 legislative session, Hinkins sponsored five bills dealing with a variety of issues including the Navajo Trust Fund and Rural Retirement Centers
SB50 dealt with the transition of the Navajo Trust Fund by extending the life of the trust fund until 2018. The bill arose out of a civil suit by the Navajo nation that proved Utah had mismanaged the Navajo Trust Fund. According to the Utah Department of Finance, the money for the trust fund comes from oil production in Aneth, Utah. The bill sought to extend Utah’s trusteeship over the fund rather than transfer management of the trust to the federal government as recommended by the governor’s office. Hinkins opposed the governor’s motion citing concerns that the Aneth Fields money would go to support other tribes at the direct expense of the Utah Navajos.
A second bill allowed for rural retirement centers to opt out of payments into the Utah Retirement System, a financial burden that Hinkins maintained was out of reach for many affected facilities.
This year Hinkins has filed a bill that would create incentives for rural medical practices. The Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program would restore a fund to help young doctors pay off student-loan debt. According to Hinkins, young doctors and their families are attracted to more urban areas which leave most communities without accessible healthcare. This bill would serve to benefit both rural hospitals and the Navajo Nation, Hinkins said. “They put in their time down here and we help them pay off their loans,” said Hinkins. “You need to have some kind of incentive for them, and this is what [Rural Physicians] is for.”
Most of the funds for the Senator’s campaign have come from Hinkins himself at $100,000, and the next largest contributors were Nielson and his companies at $25,000, this according to disclosures.utah.gov. The full list of publicly declared donations can be found at http://disclosures.utah.gov/.
When asked about being the largest single contributor to his own campaign Hinkins said that it was as he expected.
“I don’t expect people to support me if I’m not willing to support myself,” said Hinkins, “I don’t need this for a job. I don’t need this for money. I’ve done this to try to help my area. I’ve done well in this area and I want to see it continue to thrive and do well. I thought that I could do a good job to support my district,” he said.