Interview With A Director of Government Relations

January 29th, 2024

Director of Government Affairs 1

It’s a new year which means we have new interviews with more of our incredible employees! In this month’s installment, we will be talking to our Director of Government Relations, Nicole Cottle, to learn more about what it’s like to handle government relations at UTOPIA Fiber.

What’s your name, and position, and how long have you been at UTOPIA Fiber?

My name is Nicole Cottle, my position is Director of Government Relations and I’ve been with UTOPIA since July of last year so about 6 months. 

What do you do as the Director of Government Relations at UTOPIA Fiber?

There are a lot of things that go into this position, ranging from making sure that UTOPIA is protected to getting what we need legislatively. It includes working with all the legislators during the legislative session. This year in particular, as it relates to the legislature, making sure they know that what they hear on the news or what they see in some of the commercials these days is not accurate, and give them a vision for what’s going on. That boils down to communication with them and building relationships with them. It is also maintaining the relationships with our existing cities. Making sure that they’re happy, that our board members are communicated with and happy, and that any new council members that come on or new elected officials in our existing cities know about UTOPIA and have the latest information. Of course, that’s really hard because Roger does such a good job. Roger has got them all taken care of and all covered but I’ll be there as a backup to him when he needs me to back him up on that. Another job duty is forming relationships with new cities. This includes cities in the state that might be interested in UTOPIA, that might be looking for a solution to their fiber troubles, and would be interested in UTOPIA—also planting seeds with cities that didn’t know that they were interested in UTOPIA as well. 

What does a typical workday look like for you? 

That’s one of the things I love the most about this opportunity, and I’ve actually loved about my whole career, is that every day is different, really different. Some days it’s I’m on the phone all day with many different people, some days it’s a troubleshooting day where we’ve had news flash stuff and so I’m making an appointment to talk to the opposition or partners or legislators or I’m working with Kim to get the information out or I’m helping get together a little one-pager for our legislators. Some days it’s I’m making calls to the cities that we might have an interest in or that we think are interested or having lunch with a new council member. For instance yesterday I spent a little bit of time putting together the yearly calendar that shows where I’m going to be each month for traveling around and which place where the rest of the cities are that I can put myself so that I can have access to them. I also keep current on happenings around the state so I can be in touch with the cities and I strive to be on the cutting edge of any information flow.  

What inspired you to go into this position?

I started at West Valley City as an attorney, I worked as an attorney therefore about 12 years and then was asked to go into Economic Community Development and from there had the opportunity to be in management. While I was there one of my favorite projects was UTOPIA. I’ve been a huge fan of UTOPIA since the very beginning. The person who hired me at West Valley City, Paul Morris, was the one who kind of got things started with UTOPIA, and then as you know West Valley was one of the founding cities and is the largest city. So UTPOIA has been in my portfolio from that perspective the entire time. Watching UTOPIA grow and become successful under Rogers’s leadership and watching something that was impossible become possible has been awesome for me to participate in and be part of. Because I have that institutional knowledge I felt like I could bring some of that to the table as well and as I contemplated retiring from West Valley I knew I didn’t want to go to another city but that I needed to stay in local government work and UTOPIA just absolutely fit the bill. I just feel so grateful that there happened to be an opportunity that lined up with my timing and that Roger was willing to see that as a benefit to UTOPIA and was willing to let me come on over. From my perspective, it’s just a continuation of a project that I’ve loved and been part of since the very beginning. I feel a little guilty because we’re at this point where we’re so successful and things are going so well and Roger and the team, everybody has just absolutely worked so hard and carried this up the mountain and so I feel like I’m coming in at the best time! I get to just sprinkle happiness all around the state, and so you know we’ve been through the we’ve been through the rough time and so I feel very very lucky to be part of the team and so lucky to be with the folks that work here and to watch how great it is! It’s been such a pleasure for me! 

What do you think is the biggest obstacle you face in your position?

I would say the biggest obstacle would probably still be some of the misinformation that exists about UTOPIA. I think the people who would like to see us fail or be less successful love to perpetuate the old-school thinking. So I think if there is an obstacle at all it is first that and then second I think it’s a bit of a complicated situation, you know what UTOPIA is and how it works and how it might work for a city. There are some knowledge leaps that folks have to make so helping local officials understand what it looks like and how it could work for their community, I think that’s a challenging thing as well, but in a fun way. It’s just kind of a happy thing right now and everybody wants it or they wish they had it and there are no fiber emergencies. So from a challenge perspective, I really see it as more just fun than challenging.

What’s your favorite thing about working at UTOPIA Fiber?

It’s the people for sure and I loved my co-workers in West Valley truly and loved them as family and coming here has felt the same. People are happy and willing, one of the things that I value the most are the people who will say “Oh the gutter needs to be swept? I’ll do that!” and it doesn’t matter who they are and it doesn’t matter what the job is or you know “oh this is going to be really hard and there’s no one who’s done it before” and everyone will say “yes I’ll do that” or “that’s someone else’s job but they’re busy and it needs to be done” people are just willing to say “I’ll do that” and I love that, I appreciate that with the group of people and a company culture. 

What do you wish people knew about UTOPIA Fiber?

One of my favorite things to talk about when I’m talking about UTOPIA and really 99% of my job is truly just talking, I’m just talking all the time to people, and one of my favorite things to share about UTOPIA is the sharing of the vital statistics. I love to talk about the team that’s been built here and that everyone from start to finish is in the place where they are saying “We can do it we can make it work let’s figure it out. The very next thing is the wild success! I love for people to know and people are shocked and their jaws drop open when they find out that we are 23 cities, we’ve got 60,000 subscribers and about 30 ISPs and we’ve got a 60-plus point net promoter score. I love to give that list of what you would put on a little leave-behind card because people go “Whoa what? You’ve got 60,000 subscribers?” “Wait you’re in 23 cities?” “Wait you mean I can get a gig for $100?” or “Oh my gosh you guys never go down? The network is never down are you serious?” I love the reaction because people’s jaws drop! It is a testament to the team!

What’s been your favorite or weirdest day at work so far?

I’ve just loved every day so maybe I’m too early in it to have a favorite day or my weirdest day – stay tuned!!

We hope you loved getting to know Nicole as much as we did! We are so grateful for all the outstanding effort she puts in every day to help propel UTOPIA Fiber’s growth forward!

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