Despite supervising decisions and guiding policy about topics ranging from nuclear waste disposal to growth planning in northern Utah, his name, as well as the organization he directs, will hardly perk anyone's ears.
Even the number of noteworthy politicians who belong to the nondescript Wasatch Front Regional Council have not brought wide public notoriety to the council or Will Jefferies, its executive director.Yet the decisions made by the council can influence actions by a variety of city, county and state agencies, and sometimes even guide them.
Once a month, a virtual who's who of Utah politicians gathers in the new Local Government Trust building here to discuss issues, both short-term and long-term, that face their counties.
At its September meeting, for example, the council approved an updated version of its 20-year transportation wish list for the Wasatch Front. It includes vastly expanded Utah Transit Authority bus service, additional light-rail spurs in the Salt Lake Valley and improvements to U.S. 89 in Davis County.
The council has existed for more than 20 years and receives about 80 percent of its $1 million annual operating budget from the federal government, which requires that urban areas have regional planning organizations. The council serves Salt Lake, Davis, Morgan, Weber and Tooele counties.
Yet even with the amount of local political firepower, one thing the regional council won't do is act as a legislative body, Jefferies said.
Instead, the council is a mechanism that allows local mayors and county commissioners to discuss issues and set policies that will help guide future government decisions.
"We have no authority to tell anyone what to do or when to implement anything," Jefferies said. "Our function is to get everyone together and find a common ground."
Veto power does exist for the council, Jefferies said, but only in those cases where a transportation project using state or federal money, which conflicts with the long-range transportation plan, is proposed.
That long-range plan, for which the council is currently finalizing an update, is one of the primary responsibilities of the council. It includes a variety of projects scheduled for funding, as well as pro-jects the council would eventually like to see built.
Because of that long-range plan, the Wasatch Front Regional Council has an intricate relationship with both the Utah Transportation Authority and the Utah Department of Transportation. Although the debates can get heated between the bodies, Jefferies said they "have a strong working relationship with everyone."
"We can always sit down," he said, "and hash things out."
A number of other issues will also come before the primarily federally funded council, Jefferies said. In the past six months alone, they have dealt with fugitive dust regulations, the operation of waste disposal at the Tooele Army Depot, the transfer of state roads to local jurisdictions, and light rail, among other things.
"We are deeply involved in a number of things," Jefferies said.
Such an organization provides a great benefit to the local leaders, because it allows them to communicate with each other more efficiently, said Davis County Com-missioner and regional council Chairman Daniel McConkie.
"That body works as a sounding board that acts to sift through the projects which benefit the five counties," he said.
The challenge, however, comes in the balance between their local constituents and the general area.
"They're squeezed between the voters they represent and the priorities of the council," McConkie said.
But improvements can be seen continually.
"We can always make it better, as we communicate more frequently with everyone," he said.