Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson resigned Thursday, saying work as a commissioner had become too painful because it constantly reminded him of his arrest 31/2 months ago for drunken driving and possession of cocaine.
"I want to put those painful memories behind me and move forward with my life," Watson told the Deseret News Friday.Ironically, Watson was under stiff pressure at the time of his arrest to resign from office. He did drop out of the race for re-election, but chose to remain in office and
ry to weather the criticism. In recent weeks, it seemed the press and public had almost forgotten about Watson.
"But the scary thing was that it was not very enjoyable to come to work anymore. I've been trying to put things in my life back together, and every time I came to work it was a constant reminder of the foolish mistake I made and the effects it had on me and my family," Watson said.
Watson submitted his resignation to commissioners Bart Barker and Mike Stewart on Thursday. Those two Republican commissioners will choose a successor for Watson, a Democrat, from a list of six names to be submitted by the county Democratic Central Committee.
Watson's own choice would be John Hiskey, who Watson hired as director of county public works and who Watson said has been his right-hand man. Democrats are also expected to submit the name of Riverton Mayor Dale Gardiner, who is running for Watson's commission seat, but the Republican commissioners likely would not appoint him because of the advantage it would create over his Republican opponent, former commissioner M. Tom Shimizu.
Watson said he was under no recent pressure to resign for political reasons. He simply stepped down for personal and family reasons.
"I'm not sure this does much politically. I think it does make sure that I won't be an issue when the commission races heat up later this year," he said.
Watson said his immediate plans include doing some work on special projects for millionaire developer Kem Gardner, a prominent Democrat and gubernatorial candidate in 1984.
He said he also plans to continue volunteer work with Volunteers of America, the organization that runs Salt Lake County's detoxification center for alcoholics and drug abusers. "That's where I did my community service (after he pleaded guilty). I am helping them form a new board of directors."
When Watson joined the commission two years ago, he was the first Democrat elected to it in a decade. He taunted his Republican colleagues, often challenging and criticizing their decisions.
He dreamed of higher public office, but those dreams ended May 15 when a South Salt Lake police officer noticed his car weaving as it came down State Street in the early morning hours.
Watson told officers later he was heading for his office at 21st South and State, but passed by it and was stopped by the South Salt Lake officer when he crossed into her jurisdiction. She arrested him for drunken driving and possession of drug paraphernalia and cocaine.
He later pleaded guilty in South Salt Lake justice court to drunken driving, and was fined $1,000 and given a 60-day suspended sentence. In 3rd District Court, he pleaded guilty to reduced counts of attempted unlawful possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia and fined $400.
Under pressure from Democratic Party leaders, Watson dropped out of the race for re-election just a week before the Democratic County Convention saying the campaign would be detrimental to his health because he was suffering from stress.
Because he resigned for health reasons, that legally allowed the Democrats to place Gardiner on the ticket even though he had not filed for office before the filing deadline. Another Democrat had filed on time, perennial candidate B.T. Price. Party officials did not want him to be the nominee because of his many non-mainstream views, including favoring polygamy. Gardiner received the nomination at the convention.