State Policy Network is excited to have the Sutherland Institute as one of two state think tank hosts for the SPN 26th Annual Meeting, which takes place on October 9-12, 2018, in Salt Lake City, UT.
In this interview, we talk with the Sutherland Institute about what they’re working on, the state of policy in Utah, and what we can learn from their efforts. You’ll want to be sure to meet their staff in person in October!
The Sutherland Institute was founded over 20 years ago by businessman and philanthropist Gaylord K. Swim in 1995. Their mission is to promote civil dialogue and community solutions through sound ideas and principled policy surrounding families, free markets and federalism.
SPN: Let’s start by learning more about the people who make up your organization and what a typical day at your office might be like.
SUTHERLAND: We have an exceptional team here at Sutherland with a broad range of experience, including work on political campaigns, in congressional offices, at major law firms, in newsrooms, and for national foundations serving communities across the country. We have a former professor from a celebrated university and experts in a variety of policy fields, including but not limited to marriage and family issues, public lands issues, and education issues. Each of us brings an important perspective and unique set of demographics to the team.
Our office is familial and tight-knit. We enjoy applauding each other’s successes and taking pause on important occasions. For example, we celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in early April.
SPN: What are the primary issues the Sutherland Institute focuses on?
SUTHERLAND: From Utah’s laboratory of democracy, Sutherland has produced and informed sound policy efforts on issues including education, religious freedom, immigration reform, Medicaid expansion, federal control of public lands, intergenerational poverty, and criminal justice reform.
SPN: Why are these issues important for Utah?
SUTHERLAND: Getting these issues right is critical to maintaining Utah’s diverse and nation-leading economic growth – ranging from agriculture to tourism to tech. Utah faces opportunities and challenges in maintaining a traditionally thriving civil society anchored by strong families but also growing in diversity every year.
SPN: Where do you see the next big opportunity to increase freedom in Utah?
SUTHERLAND: Expanding opportunity in education for all students and their families. Sutherland is actively working to redefine and expand education choice, particularly for students with special needs.
SPN: How is Utah’s policy landscape and opportunities different from the rest of the country?
SUTHERLAND: Utah is among the top three fastest growing states and has the youngest population in the country. This creates a unique landscape for creating successful policy—particularly in education and regulation. Also, nearly 70 percent of Utah’s lands are controlled by the federal government. This reality creates challenges not experienced or understood by our East Coast counterparts—challenges that affect the way we look at policy related to growth, taxation, and local control.
SPN: What can other states learn from Utah?
SUTHERLAND: How to be fiscally prudent and grow an economy; how to preserve civil society; and how to host a killer Olympics. J
SPN: What has been the most memorable moment for the Sutherland Institute in the last year?
SUTHERLAND: There have been two. The first was our 2017 annual gala. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol was our keynote speaker and the event paid tribute to our military veterans as current defenders of freedom. Through creative partnerships Sutherland allocated a portion of gala proceeds to benefit local veterans.
The second was our success in helping deregulate and thus expand a successful community-driven solution: The Other Side Academy. The academy is “a training school in which students learn pro-social, vocational and life skills allowing them to emerge with a healthy life on “the other side.” With no cost to taxpayers, this program is available as an alternative to those facing long-term incarceration as well those seeking a change from the life they’ve chosen in the past.
Working with the inspiring leaders of The Other Side Academy was important and rewarding. It speaks directly to Sutherland’s mission of encouraging community solutions.
SPN: What do you look forward to most about the Annual Meeting in October?
SUTHERLAND: We look forward to welcoming our friends and colleagues and showcasing the great state of Utah.
SPN looks forward to welcoming everyone as well! We invite you to find out more about the Annual Meeting taking place October 9-12, 2018, in Salt Lake City, UT and submit your registration.