While Commissioner Brent Morris eases into a second term, two newcomers to the political arena are battling for votes next week for the chance to succeed Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson.
Anderson, who has served two terms, will be replaced by either Republican Sid Sandberg, Provo, or Democrat Glen Hawkins, Benjamin.Central to this fall's campaign for the two-year commission seat is what county Democrats are calling the local GOP's unwillingness to honor a gentlemen's agreement that is supposed to geographically balance representation on the commission.
According to the agreement, the seat up for grabs this fall should be filled by a candidate from the south part of the county. While Democrats have said the GOP should honor the agreement, Republican leaders have responded that having qualified people in office is more important than always complying with the agreement.
Last month, nine former commissioners from both political parties came out in support of the agreement. In a written statement, the commissioners said better county representation results from adherence to what they called "the long, successful history of the gentlemen's agreement."
But the agreement hasn't always been honored, and the GOP commission hopeful says competency should be the issue, not geography.
Sid Sandberg said county commissioners represent the whole county, not just one-third of its area.
"Can a commissioner purport to represent one section of the county and uphold his oath of office? I don't think so," said Sandberg, an attorney involved with commercial finance.
"It is unfair and un-American for 15 percent of the population to claim 33 percent of the representation. I don't believe that the citizens of this county will tolerate politics as usual. They are fed up with the back-room political bargains that produced the Timp Mental Health scandal.
"The one message that is very important for the citizens of Utah County is that county government is large enough to require competent, experienced people to manage it."
Sandberg said his experience managing millions of dollars in assets for Exxon Co. and working as a strategic planner and analyst for the Singer Co. gave him valuable oversight experience that would be useful as a commissioner. Politically, he has served as a GOP voting district committeeman and chairman and as a state and county delegate.
As a Provo native, Sandberg said, he understands the importance of local economic growth and will work to strengthen existing agriculture, business and industry, while working to attract clean industry to the county.
Sandberg said elected officials have a duty to run government efficiently and economically. He said he supports the intent of the proposed tax initiatives but feels they go too far.
The initiatives show that people "want the government's hand out of their pocket. That's an encouraging thing to see."
Glen Hawkins says it's time the County Commission had some balance for a change. As a Democrat from the south part of the county, he offers that balance, he said.
"I'm the only candidate running who can bring the checks and balances after several years of a one-party system," said Hawkins, a retired Geneva Steel worker who runs his own farm.
"My election will honor the gentlemen's agreement by having commissioners in the north, central and south areas of Utah County," said Hawkins, who has been a Democratic state delegate from Benjamin for 20 years. He said geographical representation is essential to understanding each area's problems and to finding solutions.
"We've never been without representation before in the south end of the county. Taxation without representation just doesn't prove to be a good thing."
Hawkins opposes the tax-limitation initiatives because he said the county already is operating on a bare-bones budget and can't afford any cuts. Even if the initiatives fail, "We're going to have to buckle down and squeeze every penny out of our tax dollars."
If elected, he said, he would refuse to accept a pay increase during his term.
Hawkins pledged to support business, industry and agriculture and to promote the creation of new jobs in the county.
"My biggest priority is to keep honesty and hard work in government," he said. "We need audits of all departments. I want to make sure we keep things clean and honest."
Having served as a member of water and power boards and a water users' representative on state and national levels, Hawkins said he knows how important water is to Utah County. He said he will support projects that will bring water to the county.
Hawkins said he believes in open communication with county employees as well as citizens. He said he looks forward to serving the public and contributing to the county.