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Holladay Journal

Rep. Spackman Moss breaks record with 23 years of service as a female legislator

Mar 30, 2023 02:39PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Carol Spackman Moss discusses HB 259, her Suicide Prevention in Correctional Facilities bill that passed this session. (Photo courtesy of Carol Spackman Moss)

Carol Spackman Moss has made history as Utah’s longest-serving female state legislator. Moss, who has served in the Utah House of Representatives for over 23 years, was first elected in 2000 and has been re-elected every two years since then.

Moss represents District 34, which covers East Murray, Holladay and Millcreek. 

“I ran for office because I had a call from my cousin, then a legislator, who said I should run for office because my current representative was not a good advocate for public education,” Moss said. “At that time, I was in my 32nd year of teaching English at Olympus High, and I loved my job. I was, however, getting burned out from grading essays at night, on weekends, and on holidays, and I thought being a legislator might be something I would enjoy if I retired from teaching. 

“Note that I started teaching at age 23 but couldn’t afford to retire in my 50s and give up my health insurance. I thought about it for a few days, talked with my family, had a few more legislators call to persuade me to run, and I decided that with all the students I had taught in my neighborhood and community, I had name recognition and thought I would have a pretty good shot at winning.”

In retrospect, Moss might agree that the more things change, the more they stay the same when she characterizes how the legislature has changed since she started. 

“The changes I have seen over the years is that the work is more intense, more bills, more meetings, more special sessions. The session is the same 45 days, but the budget has more than doubled to this year’s 29-billion-dollar budget. More bills than ever are written, over a 1,000, this year, but we have the same amount of time to complete the budget. That means more speed, less scrutiny, longer hours, and more competition for funding,” Moss said.

However, one change this year concerns her more over past years.

“The biggest change, especially noticeable this year, is the partisan divide is much greater. When I first was elected, and for many years, the two parties competed, of course, and had some different political views, but this year, it is much more partisan with bills that come from outside organizations, far-right groups that want to restrict what and how teachers can teach, what books students can read, what parents can do in terms of medications for their children who have gender dysphoria, and what rights women have in regards to their reproductive healthcare to name a few.

“This session also saw bills combined that forced legislators to choose between something they dislike, like school vouchers, coupled with pay raises for teachers, HB 215, which started the session on an adversarial note,” Moss said.

For a Democrat in a super-majority Republican legislature, Moss has passed quite a bit of legislation. However, the one she most fondly remembers is paving the way for using Naloxone.

“It has also been gratifying to meet people who have benefitted from laws I have passed, whose lives were saved by Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug,” Moss said. “That has saved countless lives after I passed bills to allow police to carry it, local health clinics to dispense it, and now it can be purchased without a prescription from a pharmacy, usually covered by insurance.”

Her last few years in the legislature have been challenging, not due to partisan fights but because she lost her beloved husband, Bob.

“Sadly, my life has changed considerably in the past 18 months because of the death of my husband in July 2021,” Moss said. “I am fortunate that all three of my daughters, their husbands, and my grandchildren now live close by in Holladay, Millcreek and Murray. My daughters attend plays, book clubs, and political functions with me, events that my late husband Bob Moss always attended.”

Does she have any plans on retiring?

“Yes, of course, I plan on retiring. I will announce it when the time is right. Currently, I have another year and a half of my 12th term, and then I will decide. The filing deadline for the 2024 election is next year, the first week in January,” Moss said.

Moving into year 24 of her legislative service, there are things that drive her personally. 

“My favorite part of being a legislator has been meeting many people from different backgrounds and professions. I have gained enormous respect for state employees in all the capacities that make our state run effectively, from the folks at the DMV to UDOT, to employees at the state and local health departments, Refugee Services, Consumer Services Division, the State Board of Education, and more. 

“I have also met constituents, thousands of them at their doors when I am campaigning, and at town halls, and other events I attend, from parades to arts festivals in the cities I represent,” Moss said.