The air is cleaner, the ground is purer and government is smaller than eight years ago when he first was elected Salt Lake County commissioner, Mike Stewart said as he prepared to announce plans to run for re-election.
Stewart, a Republican, was to announce his candidacy Wednesday afternoon. If voters choose him over Democratic challenger Jim Bradley, Stewart will have served 12 years as commissioner by the time his term ends.While Bradley is sure to challenge Stewart's statements about the county's efficiency, Stewart said he is ready to show the county is winning awards, planning for the future and including more area residents in its decisions than ever before.
Stewart, in charge of the county's Human Services Department, said he has been unselfish and has avoided making decisions based on politics.
"Government doesn't need caretaker leadership. It needs a spark plug," he said. "I've been a spark plug."
Stewart said he is partly responsible for county government shrinking its bureaucracy despite an increase in countywide population.
"We have been able to do this because of increased productivity and dedication on the part of county employees and administrators, the judicious use of privatization in many areas of government . . . and increasing reliance on user fees in place of declining tax revenues," he said.
He also takes credit for helping various government agencies coordinate their efforts. He cited the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, which he established, as an example. The committee brings together various members of the
criminal justice system.
Since 1980, the county has worked to eliminate physical barriers to handicapped people, he said. It also has provided care for the needy.
"We have not forgotten that government must have a heart, since our main function is to serve our citizens," he said.
The county also has organized more than 60 citizen boards and has encouraged residents of the unincorporated areas to form community councils, he said.
Stewart said 12 years is not too long for a person to hold the same elected position, provided that person has fresh ideas and is excited about his job.
"The good planning has been done," he said. "Now it requires the political will to pursue those plans."
Recently elected fourth vice president in the National Association of Counties, Stewart said he has no political ambitions beyond county government.
"There is much that remains to be done," he said. "I expect to take an active role in promoting continued long-range planning efforts for our transportation needs, water supply, recreation and canyon areas, among others."