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Monday Close-Up: New board member for Alpine School District brings along extensive community experience

Stacy Bateman originally went to school to become a kindergarten teacher, but plans changed and she ended up becoming a high school dance teacher instead. When she and her family moved to Lehi, she was asked to take on a long-term substitute teaching job.

From there she became a regular sub, mostly at secondary schools in the area.

Fast forward to 2019 and Bateman found herself being elected to the National PTA Board. Next thing you know, people began asking her if she was going to run for a seat on the Alpine School Board in 2020.

“One of my friends had said, ‘I think you should really consider this,’ so I did the math and I realized, maybe someday,” Bateman said. “I’d love to have that opportunity one day but I didn’t know if now is the time. I realized that in four years when the seat would come up again, three of my children would have already graduated.”

Having children that go to school in the district is not necessarily a deal breaker for her, but she does believe that it brings along a different perspective for board members. It began to set in that it could be her time to run, but she was still not sure.

While on a trip to Washington, D.C., for a conference with the National PTA Board in early 2020, she went to visit the site where the Battle of Antietam was fought. The battle, known as the bloodiest day in American history, was a must visit for the self-proclaimed national park geek.

Her favorite subject to teach while being a substitute teacher has always been American history and teaching about the Battle of Antietam has always fascinated Bateman.

While on site, Bateman was having what she said was a “sort of spiritual experience,” when she and her friend began talking to a couple they had met.

Her possible run for school board came up in conversation and it just so happened that the husband was a former school board member and administrator. The great conversation that followed inspired Bateman.

At the end of the conversation the man said, “It sounds to me like you need to file.”

“I just thought, I’ve done a lot of volunteering over the last 20 years, but being on the school board is a way to make sure I have an opportunity to have a voice in policy that gets made, the way budget gets spent, and if we’re doing the best for our teachers,” Bateman said. “I kind of amassed all of this knowledge and experience and I thought, ‘I think this is something I can do.’”

She was at the site of the Battle of Antietam on a Monday, on Capitol Hill for meetings come Wednesday, flew home on Sunday and on the Monday after her visit to the famous Civil War site she was filing to run for the Alpine School Board seat.

“I just really haven’t looked back since,” Bateman said.

The mother of five, four of which are currently going to school in the district and one kindergartner, said that having children in the district allows for her to have an understanding of what challenges the teachers have, what concerns the parents have and a grasp on how the students are doing.

She added that her family is entrenched in service within the district.

“I am really grateful for all of the people who called and said, ‘How can we help your campaign?,’” Bateman said. “It was kind of a humbling and almost overwhelming thing to know how many people thought I was the right person for this job. It’s a mildly terrifying experience to put yourself into the public arena. The support was amazing and blew me away. I live in an amazing community.”

When talking about the community she was elected to serve, Bateman brought up the underlying pioneer spirit she has seen while living in Lehi, something she has not seen in other places she has lived.

Bateman has seen people rally together for different causes, whatever that cause may be, and said that while the town may be growing rapidly with a huge tech scene, that small town feel is still there.

After being elected in November, Bateman was officially sworn in recently, marking the start of her term.

When asked about her biggest hopes and goals for her time with the board, she first brought up how she has enjoyed seeing the Alpine School District lead with social and emotional wellness in mind.

She wants to continue on with this message, prioritizing mental health for teachers and students.

“I just want to ensure that every student, (and) every staff member has the support that they need and that we are giving them the tools, the time and the space to take care of themselves,” Bateman said. “In terms of priorities, mental health is probably my No. 1. That’s huge for me.”

The next thing Bateman brought up was the lowering of class sizes. While this may be a tall task in the state of Utah and its largest school district, she brought up the benefits and positives for everyone. This includes the best compensation possible for teachers.

Lastly, Bateman spoke of everything being equitable, meaning that everyone should have what they need, but noting that not everyone needs the same things. She aims to look through a lens of what is best for everyone and not just the children in her home, her neighborhood or the schools in her neighborhood.

When talking about her term to come on the school board, Bateman seemed ready to take on the challenges ahead of her.

“It is exciting, I am excited to get in and get to work, but I think it’s also being mindful of the climate in our country,” Bateman said. “Thinking about recent events, really, I am just feeling hopeful. Just knowing that whatever is happening in our state or our country, when our kids go to school, they’ve got a safe place to land for a little while.”

She added that she has a grounded feeling of hope and a willingness to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

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Slim Chickens expanding footprint in Utah, looking to ruffle feathers in job market

Slim Chickens started in 2003 with the first location in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but the chain is now making its way west and into the Beehive State.

The Southern-style chicken restaurant started heavily franchising in 2011 and currently has 110 locations in the United States as well as a couple international spots. The chain also has 500 committed restaurants set to be developed in the next five years, according to Byron Wheeler of the LOVE Restaurant Group.

Wheeler and his partners have taken on the developmental rights for the brand in Utah, seeing a demographic and growth factor that make a perfect match for the brand.

He said the demographics in Salt Lake and Utah counties, along with the rapid growth throughout the state and some family of a partner in Spanish Fork made the move into Utah easy.

The group is opening a restaurant in Herriman next week along with a deal signed to open a store in Saratoga Springs for 2021. Wheeler added the chain also has plans to bring 13-15 restaurants into Utah over the next five years.

Two of those locations are currently being negotiated in Utah County, which would add to the upcoming Saratoga Springs restaurant and the already-open Lehi location.

“The Lehi store opened on the Fourth of July in 2020, so we’ve got just over half a year underneath us, and it’s just been a fantastic process,” Wheeler said. “In relation to some of our other markets across the country, we’ve found it very easy and enjoyable to engage with the local chamber of commerce, our local high school and to have some business-to-business partnerships that drive each business forward. We’re looking forward to continuing to have that kind of role in the communities we enter.”

The opening of the Lehi restaurant brought 95 new jobs to Utah County and the Saratoga Springs location is expected to bring in 100 more jobs. Those opportunities will expand with more restaurants in the county, with an estimated 100 jobs per location.

Wheeler owns a number of restaurant brands over a number of different dining styles, but he said the quality of the product is what attracted him to get involved with Slim Chickens.

“We flew to Arkansas, tried the product ourselves and we knew that this was a best-in-class product that none of our competitors can match,” Wheeler said. “We thought this was going to be a winning product, and if we can put chicken in people’s mouths, we’re going to win this fight.”

When asked about what to expect when stepping foot into a Slim Chickens, Wheeler was quick to bring up Southern hospitality along with the Southern food.

That’s also something separating Slim Chickens from other chicken-centric fast food restaurants, according to Wheeler.

While he enjoys eating at Raising Cane’s and Chick-fil-A, Wheeler boasted about the quality of the product at Slim Chickens.

“We think that we have a larger and more diverse menu than some of our primary competitors, and we think we lead with a great product and fantastic Southern hospitality,” Wheeler said. “We think there’s room in these markets for these great concepts.”

He and his wife, Kristen, were also named the Developers of the Year at the Slim Chickens annual conference.

Wheeler characterized the award as humbling.

“It let us know that we are doing things right, and we were given that award not only based off the number of restaurants we opened in 2020, which was four, but the quality of the building and the timeliness of the construction,” Wheeler said.

Along with the expansion, Wheeler also enjoys partnering with local contractors and subcontractors to keep the money in the market where the locations will be opening.

As for those looking for a suggestion on their first visit to Slim Chickens, Wheeler said one of his go-to orders is the classic meal with four chicken tenders, Texas toast and fries or ranch chips. He also enjoys the spicy sauces like sriracha garlic or the mango habanero.

Police unlock key patterns of theft from vehicles

Pleasant Grove’s Police Department wants to warn its residents that there has been an increase in thefts from vehicles recently and other communities in Utah County are experiencing the same. While there is always an increase in these types of crimes around the holidays, this year the increase seems to be even greater.

“We would like to remind everyone to lock vehicles and homes,” reads a Jan. 3 post on the Pleasant Grove Police Department Facebook page. “We have been having an increase in vehicle burglaries and vehicle thefts throughout the city and county. Please make sure to remove all property from view and secure your vehicles and do not leave running vehicles unattended.”

“We have had more vehicle burglaries in the last quarter than in previous quarters in 2020,” said Capt. Britt Smith. “People tend to leave more valuables in their vehicles during the holiday months.”

Smith said the majority of vehicles that get broken into are left unlocked, but some have had windows broken.

“However, those with damage had visible items left inside, such as backpacks, purses and laptop bags,” he said.

Other items that are commonly taken include firearms, sporting equipment, skateboards, medication and sunglasses.

The vehicles that have been broken into are generally in high-density housing parking lots and business parking lots.

“However, no area is safe or free of crime,” Smith said. “We have seen vehicles broken into on the street in front of homes, in driveways and even in open garages.”

Smith suggests that, to protect against thefts from their vehicles, people should park in well-lit areas and always lock vehicle doors. Valuables should never be left in the car and if they are, should not be in plain sight.

According to Detective Sgt. Shawn Nielson, vehicle burglary can be very difficult to investigate.

“Stolen items such as sunglasses, loose change, tools and things like this are almost impossible to track,” he said. “Checks, credit cards from purses or wallets are easier to track because we can find out where they are used or where checks are cashed.”

Items with serial numbers can be listed as stolen through the National Crime Information Center or the FBI National Crime Information Center.

“If they are pawned or checked by law enforcement, these items will be reported as stolen,” Nielson said.

Nielson said that valuable items should always be taken out of the vehicle or placed somewhere out of sight, such as locked in a trunk or center console. It is never a good idea to keep any items of value inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle and this includes bags of any kind.

“Even if the bag is closed, it may look like it holds something of value to someone looking in,” he said.

Pleasant Grove is not the only community that is experiencing an increase in thefts from vehicles. According to Sgt. Nick Thomas of the Orem Police Department, during 2020, there were 474 thefts from vehicles in the city. In 2019, there were 391 and in 2018, there were 178.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office, said his department has seen an increase in these types of crimes during this time of year as well. Additionally, there has been an increase in other types of crimes, such as domestic violence and driving under the influence.

Cannon said that he attributes this increase in crime to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.