Salt Lake County commissioners fear a return of the spoils system when Democrats Randy Horiuchi and Jim Bradley take office in January.

But the commissioners leaving office, Republicans Tom Shimizu and Bart Barker, wished their successors well during a farewell press conference Monday. "I have a great desire to see them succeed," Barker said.All three commissioners used the press conference to comment on their achievements over the past 10 years and make recommendations to the new commission. But Shimizu and Commission Chairman Mike Stewart, who will be the lone Republican on the commission as of next month, both responded to a reporter's question about political "cronyism" by speculating that some top-level county employees not protected by the merit system will be out of a job soon.

"I'm sure they will do a good job, but I hope that they will not bring back the spoils system," Shimizu said of Horiuchi and Bradley. "I hope they will not patronize to political cronyism."

Shimizu oversees the public works department and expressed disappointment that Horiuchi plans to replace Public Works Director R. Terry Holzworth. "Probably you'll not find a better person there, and I'm sad to see that he is leaving," Shimizu said.

Commissioners are free to choose their secretaries, administrative assistants, department heads and the commission's staff manager and public relations specialist at will.

Stewart said it is predictable after an election that vulnerable employees are concerned about losing their jobs. "We're returning to the spoils system," he said, parroting the county employees' rumor mill.

There is also open speculation that Administrative Services Director Larry Meyer, who is Barker's former administrative assistant, will also be replaced when Bradley takes over Barker's Administrative Services portfolio.

Stewart's plans for the coming year differ from Barker's and Shimizu's in that he is the only one of the three who will be a part of the new commission. And he plans on staying in the political arena after the end of his term.

"I'll seek office in '92. Where, I'm not certain, but I'll be in the fracas." He did not speculate on other offices he might seek.

Being the lone Republican among two Democrats may leave Stewart a war hero by the end of next year, he said, but so far he does not feel left out of the actions Bradley and Horiuchi said they would take once in office. Stewart said he has discussed Salt Palace, Dimple Dell and Mill Creek Canyon issues with the two commissioners-elect.

The three men agree a fee station should be placed in Mill Creek Canyon and that Salt Palace issues still need a considerable amount of thrashing around. That leaves only the golf course proposal for Dimple Dell as the only major political issue he and the commissioners-elect do not agree on.

Bradley and Horiuchi have also gone about their own agenda without Stewart and without public involvement on some occasions, Stewart said. The two Democrats are free to meet when and where they please now because they aren't bound by the state's open meetings law until they take office. "But everything after Jan. 7 is an open meeting," Stewart said.