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Richard Snelgrove

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Councilman Richard Snelgrove said Friday he will formally announce he is a candidate in the county mayor's race soon.

"We've been working on this for months, waiting for the right timing to announce," the Republican said. His Facebook profile picture has a "County Mayor 2012" banner across the top. "Possibly next week or the first week of December" is when Snelgrove said he will make the announcement official.

Snelgrove, 55, is a seasoned campaigner, winning his seat on the County Council in 2010. Before that he ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1988 and 2002, The Utah House in 2004 and the Salt Lake County Council in 2000. He is also a previous Salt Lake County and state GOP party chairman and district director for former Utah Rep. Merrill Cook.

"Salt Lake County, in large, is well managed," he said, hoping that as mayor he could see the county move from being among the 30 or so counties in the nation to have the best bond rating to being the top county on that list. "Why shouldn't we shoot to be number one?" he asked. "Let's try to be more efficient and to make county government more transparent, more responsible."

A first step in that process, he said, is a proposal currently on the table with the council to allow bond issues on election ballots only during general election years, when voter turnout is the highest, instead of municipal elections where voter turnout can be low with results easily skewed by special interest groups. The council may move on the bond proposal as early as next week, he said.

Salt Lake County is also embroiled in a battle over moving budgeting duties completely away from the auditor's office and into the county mayor's office. The County Council voted 8-1 earlier this week to make that move; Auditor Gregory P. Hawkins opposes the change and has promised to sue to keep budgeting responsibilities in his office.

Snelgrove was the only member of the council to side with the auditor in that vote. "It won't make a dime's worth of difference to taxpayers of this county. Why rearrange the deck chairs if not for a positive result? It's best to err on the side of caution and leave the status quo," he said, adding that if the decision to make the mayor the budget officer stands, "I can live with that."

Already in the mayor's race are Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott, also a Republican, and two Democrats who are sitting state senators: Ben McAdams and Minority Leader Ross Romero.

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, another Republican, has also been on the "possible" candidate list for some time, though Snelgrove said he is less certain what in-party challengers there will be since Winder revealed he had been submitting stories and photos under a fake name of Richard Burwash to newspapers and news websites.

"For a minute there I was worried about having to run against a split personality," Snelgrove said. "Whether (Winder) runs or not never did play into my decision to run. I always did expect him to be a serious candidate."

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