Utah Rep. Carol Spackman Moss defies the odds

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Sitting in a large meeting room, Carol Spackman Moss smiled from across the table, making idle chatter about how she lived in the same LDS Ward as former BYU President Cecil Samuelson, and how it was nice to see him finally able to spend time with his grandkids. Though it was early in the morning, she exuded enthusiasm.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, R-Salt Lake City (Photo by Aaron Endy)
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, R-Salt Lake City (Photo by Aaron Endy)

She loves her work, including the details. When Carol Spackman Moss, a veteran lawmaker elected in 2000, spoke of concept of “herd immunity” her face lit up. She explained how a decrease in immunized children in schools can eventually reach a tipping point where too few immunizations can create health risks for all.

Like the immunization bill, Spackman-Moss has witnessed thousands of bills move through Utah’s House. “I’ve been in 16 years now, and so I’ve worked on a number of issues, many related to education,” she said. “Now my focus this session, and for a couple sessions, has been to try and reduce the rate of overdose deaths in our state from opiate-based drugs.”

Well known for her career as an educator, Spackman Moss is beloved by Democrats and Republicans alike, for being fair and honest.

“Although she’s a teacher, she’s always willing to learn. She relies on experts, relies on people who are affected by what she is about to do,” said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, fellow Democrat and House minority whip. “She is very pleasant, always has a smile on her face, always very friendly. Even if she doesn’t agree with you she gives you that respect. She’s an amazing editor. We depend on her to catch things that we might not have noticed.”

Spackman-Moss has overcome challenges as a Democrat in a largely Republican-controlled Legislature. She said, “When I got into politics, I became a minority three times over, a woman a Democrat and a teacher,” she said with a smile. “Education is the only area of public policy where everyone thinks that they are an expert.”

Expert or not, Democrats are a minority in Utah. There are 12 Democrats in the House and five in the senate, a significant drop from when Spackman-Moss was elected in 2000. Back then, there were 22 in the House alone, a fact she blames on Republican gerrymandering, though it hasn’t affected her much in her stomping grounds of Holladay and Murray.

“There are a lot of Republicans that live in my district, but I was their kid’s teacher, and then they grow up and they still vote for me, because they know my values.” Spackman-Moss said, noting that she did not like being categorized as “liberal.” She described how she has made friends and allies across the political spectrum.

“This is the thing about Democrats, with only 12 in the house, and five in the senate, we represent over 40 percent of registered voters.” She described her responsibility to represent not only the minority, but the majority in her district.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab and the House Rules Committee chair, said, “She’s a moderate Democrat, a mainstream Democrat, she’s up on the issues, and I love working with her. . . She’s an outstanding legislator as far as I’m concerned and she’s an outstanding person. She’s a very, very nice person. I call her ‘Spacky.’ ”

Noel described how he too has her edit some of his bills as he lauded her ability as an editor and educator.

Spackman-Moss said she felt that her single greatest achievement as a legislator was helping create a mentoring program in Salt Lake City for new and struggling teachers. She also championed a Good Samaritan law in 2013. It also allows someone to turn themselves into drug rehab, without fear of prosecution.

As a lawmaker she has had full support from her family.

“My wife is very intelligent. She tries to do bipartisan voting on her bills, and tries to promote bills that are constructive,” husband Bob Moss said.

Rep. Moss described how her husband and children get angry when people make sweeping generalizations such as legislators are idiots

“I really like to give the image that everyone up here is doing what they think is the right thing, they just have a different way of doing it,” she said.

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