Kathleen McConkie Collinwood sat in her law office one afternoon earlier this year, wondering why more people weren't speaking out against a plan that would bring much of the nation's nuclear waste to Utah's western desert.
She and her brother, Jim McConkie, began brainstorming. They wanted a solution that would rally public passions against the waste proposal, and they knew they needed the help of some prominent Utahns, Democrats and Republicans alike, to muster a groundswell of opposition.
"We put together a respectable group," Jim McConkie said. Included in the citizens group are former Gov. Norm Bangerter, a Republican, and former U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, a Democrat.
"If we join together we can stop these things," said Collinwood, the Democratic candidate for Utah's 1st Congressional District seat. "Together, we're much stronger."
That's the way Collinwood plays politics. Bold, upfront, in your face, yet willing to sit down with Republicans to find a solution.
If her GOP opponent, Jim Hansen, seems somewhat elusive about his political strategies, preferring to huddle with key players to tackle tough problems, then Collinwood would be more of a cheerleader, rallying for a common cause.
That Collinwood, a 50-year-old lawyer who has never held public office, is challenging a man who has never lost an election shows she has spunk.
"When I think of my sister, she's always moving quickly, walking fast, talking on the phone while walking down the street," says her brother, Jim. "Then she goes home, takes her batteries out, wakes up with tons of energy the next morning."
In addition to her energy on top of her full-time job, she and her husband have 10 children "she's a very affable person," adds Scott Lee, her law partner with Randle, Deamer, McConkie & Lee. "Kathleen is just a good, down-to-earth person. She's sensible and hard-working."
Collinwood was born in New York, grew up in England and returned to the United States after high school.
She learned the value of education and family at an early age. Her father, James McConkie, died when she was a toddler. Her mother raised three children while earning her doctorate at Columbia University in New York. She remarried, to an executive, and the family moved to England.
After high school, Collinwood came to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, graduating in 1971. She moved to Minnesota, where she taught high school English while raising a family. She later moved to Rochester, Minn., where she lived while attending Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minn.
"When she was going to law school, she would drive 100 miles a day while reviewing legal principles," Jim McConkie said. "She has the highest energy level of anyone I know."
She received a law degree in 1981. And after a divorce, she moved to Utah to become a lawyer. She married Dean Collinwood, and they blended their families, raising children who now range in age from 14 to 28.
Collinwood quickly became involved in her Bountiful community, gaining the admiration of her neighbors.
"She's a very remarkable woman. I'm very impressed with her. She has a keen sense of social values," said Jim Bromley, a retired state employee who lives in her neighborhood. "Although she belongs to a different political party than I do."
Despite her popularity and a family name firmly ingrained in Utah politics, no one doubts she has an uphill battle. Not only is it hard to raise campaign funds to run against a well-entrenched incumbent, but 1st Congressional District voters, like Bromley, have been voting Republican since Hansen defeated the late Rep. Gunn McKay 20 years ago.
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