SALT LAKE CITY — Jeff White said he knows his odds as a write-in candidate aren't ideal, but he didn't want to sit idly by knowing Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen was running unopposed.
"I know it's a long shot," White said Monday, nearly two weeks away from the Nov. 8 election. "But I felt something needed to be done, to give voters a choice."
The West Valley resident said he filed as an independent, write-in candidate because he's been troubled by pending audits into Unified Fire Authority spending and questions surrounding its top leaders.
Jensen served as Unified fire chief for seven years before stepping down in August, after two audits were launched into the agency. Jensen says he left for the good of the agency and to start a new career path, not because of any wrongdoing.
In response to White's campaign against him, Jensen said his bid to add another four years to his 16-year tenure representing District 2 on the County Council is unrelated to his decision to leave the Unified Fire Authority or the pending audits.
"I'm running my campaign based on my record. And as a council member, I think my record speaks for itself," Jensen said, adding that he helped save taxpayer dollars by creating the Unified fire and police departments, strived to "fight" for west-side communities, and helped maintain the county's AAA bond rating.
Earlier this summer, when the audits came amid media reports of questionable purchases on Unified fire credit cards — particularly charges made by Chief Deputy Gaylord Scott and approved by Jensen — the councilman urged people not to "jump to conclusions." He noted that audits are a typical, often beneficial processes for agencies.
Jensen has defended Scott's charges, which included thousands of dollars in Apple products to six-night hotel stays, as appropriate for Unified Fire Authority business — from firefighter tech needs to conference trips.
"The jury is still out," White acknowledged, but he added that there is "a level of trust implied" in Jensen's position that would be "eroded" if the audits do find any wrongdoing or weak policies.
"Voters should have some kind of option," White said.
But Jensen said his experience as a councilman and his drive to continue improving the quality of life in Salt Lake County should speak louder to voters.
"I would hope anybody running for office would have a plan for why they would run, not just because there's a negative reason to run," Jensen said. "It should be about what you can do to build the community."
Jensen, a Republican, said he prioritizes fiscal responsibility and listening to west-side communities. White, who works for commercial explosives company Dyno Nobel and identifies as an independent, said he wants to keep money in taxpayers' pockets and represents the working class.
District 2 includes Copperton, Herriman, Kearns, Magna, Riverton, South Jordan, West Jordan and West Valley City.