The Arizona Strip’s ‘but also’ towns: They’re beautiful, but also trying to overcome their own dark histories

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COLORADO CITY, Ariz — Surrounded by beautiful mountains and sweeping valleys, the “twin cities” of the Arizona Strip — Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah  — are dealing with the same issues as any other city: Affordable housing, water, and healthcare.

But there’s always a “but also” with the two communities. As in “The two cities are dealing with the problems other cities have, but also their troubling past that resulted in Netflix specials.”

“I know Colorado City has had a lot of bad press throughout the years,” said Colorado City mayor Howard Ream, who was elected in 2022.

Ream is talking about the hold the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had on his town and Hildale for decades. Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the FLDS had complete control over both. Ruling the land with an iron fist, breaking apart families by forcing men to leave the community. The Jeffs or their lieutenants even ran the local police and fire departments.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop witnessed the reign of Jeffs first hand, having been born in Hildale and raised in the church.

“He controlled our homes,” Jessop said. “He could tell us, you don’t live there anymore, somebody else does.”

It’s the past that brought nationwide attention to Short Creek Valley. But Jeffs is in prison and the church’s power has been diminished in the two cities.

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