This year's races for elective office in Washington County have been characterized as unexciting. But the challengers for the two available seats on the County Commission are proceeding as if that weren't the case.
Who will serve in many of the county's key positions has already been decided, either by the Republican primary last Sept. 11, or because no one filed to challenge incumbents.Frederick H. Esch is challenging Republican incumbent Gayle M. Aldred for a seat on the county commission. Esch's campaign literature and signs tell voters to vote for the man, not for his Independent Party label.
Esch, who said he has suffered from a lack of campaign financing, is a retired sociologist who has worked in human relations with the Air Force and taught classes in sociology in the Granite School District, at the University of Alaska and at Southern Utah State College.
Esch claims the incumbents, his opponent included, really don't know where their jobs originated or what their responsibilities are.
Esch said if he is elected, he plans to give back $500 per month of his salary. "I think they're overpaid," Esch said.
Esch is concerned because the current commissioners either own or operate their own businesses, or are employed elsewhere in addition to their county responsibilities. He said he can serve full time in the position, saving county taxpayers money.
Other issues around which Esch is centering his campaign include the improvement of roads outside St. George, finding new sources of water, low wages, making the commission more accessible and dealing with the area's rapid growth.
Esch is not satisfied with the current commission's meeting time. The three-member panel has met at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays for at least the past eight years.
Incumbent Gayle M. Aldred doesn't share Esch's view that the commission's meeting time should be changed.
Aldred commended the Legislature for extending the terms of all county commissioners to four years.
"I think it's really a great move," Aldred said. "It was really unfair to both me and the county for me to be in office for only two years."
Aldred said one of his great concerns has been that dispatchers in the Sheriff's Office have also been used to handle emergency situations that arise in the jail. He said the implementation of a 911 emergency telephone system in the county next year should do much to relieve that situation.
Aldred said his main objective as a commissioner has been to advocate fiscal responsibility. He sees no problem with the fact that he and the other commissioners have business commitments along with their county responsibilities.
Aldred said he usually averages about 30 hours a week working for the county. He said he understood there would be an extra burden of time and effort when he decided to seek office.
He shares the concerns of the other commission candidates about roads, adequate water supplies and dealing with the county's growth.
Benedict F. Guerin, a Democrat, is facing possibly the most difficult commission race. He is challenging Republican incumbent Jerry B. Lewis, a commissioner for 13 years and the panel's chairman for nine.
Guerin said the main reason he decided to run is his feeling that a position of such importance shouldn't go unchallenged.
"Washington County Democrats believe in a two-party system," Guerin said. "We haven't had the Democratic party represented on the ballot."
Guerin cited the difficulty of running against an incumbent of Lewis' stature. He said Lewis is well-known in church and community circles, which has meant a lot of hard campaigning for Guerin. Guerin said he would run a positive campaign and praised Lewis and the other commissioners for past work.
One of Guerin's main objectives is changing the time the county commission meets.
Guerin is also concerned about the length of time commissioners serve. He wants to use his influence to try to limit commissioners' tenure to 12 years.
Guerin believes the county should start taking the lead on environmental issues, even though the population is still relatively small. He said he would like to see county government involve itself in recycling projects and in making attempts to start cleaning up the air.
He also wants to see the county involved in exerting itself as a moral force.
Commission chairman Lewis said he doesn't think he contradicts anyone in a discussion of critical issues. Those issues include dealing with growth while making sure the county's government infrastructure keeps up, ensuring adequate water supplies and maintaining a budget that includes the lowest general fund tax rate in the state.
Lewis sees no problem with the commission's current meeting time.
"It seems like when there is an issue that's important, the people will come to that meeting," Lewis said.
He said the greatest challenge will be living within a frugal budget that taxpayers can afford and will accept.
Incumbent Sheriff Glenwood Humphries' name appears uncontested on the November ballot. Others running unopposed for county offices include: Clinton D. Perkins, assessor; Paul F. Graf, attorney; E. Royden Christian, auditor/clerk; Russell Shirts, recorder; and R. Lynn Gardner, treasurer.