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Amelia Powers Gardner elected to fill Utah County Commission vacancy

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | Apr 24, 2021
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Amelia Powers, Utah County's clerk/auditor, poses for a portrait in her office in the Utah County Administration Building on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Provo.

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Amelia Powers, Utah County's clerk/auditor, poses for a portrait in her office in the Utah County Administration Building on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Provo.

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Amelia Powers, Utah County's clerk/auditor, poses for a portrait in her office in the Utah County Administration Building on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Provo.

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner has been elected to fill a vacancy on the Utah County Commission, becoming the first woman to be elected to the county governing body.

Gardner was one of nine Republican candidates running to fill the vacancy, which was created when Tanner Ainge abruptly resigned in March. After multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting, Gardner prevailed with about 55% of delegate votes, 204 of 373.

In accordance with county party bylaws, only members of the Utah County Republican Party Central Committee voted in the special election to fill the vacancy. Voting in the race opened on Thursday night and closed on Saturday afternoon.

Highland Mayor Rod Mann came in second in the special election race with 169 of 373 votes, about 45%. Former Utah County Commissioner Steve White was eliminated in the seventh round after only receiving 100 delegate votes.

In a written statement, Gardner said she was “honored” to be selected to serve on the commission and looked forward to working with commissioners Bill Lee and Tom Sakievich.

“Now it is time to get to work and ensure Utah County is prepared for the overwhelming growth ahead,” Gardner said. “We need to work together as a community to ensure we have a strong vision and strategic plan so we can ensure long-term fiscal responsibility and efficiency.”

Since taking office as clerk/auditor in January 2019, Gardner has made multiple efforts to bring efficiency to local government, including implementing a mobile app that allows couples to apply for marriage licenses online.

Gardner clashed with Lee and Sakievich earlier this year after the commissioners moved to place county budget staff directly under the county commission. Gardner complained that they proposed doing so without notifying the clerk/auditor’s office and said that “good government happens when sunshine is in the room.”

A Utah County Attorney’s Office Investigations Bureau investigation that concluded on April 2 found that Gardner sexually harassed a former employee in 2020 and violated the county’s workplace harassment policy in doing so. However, the same former employee questioned the timing of the investigation, which he called a “political vendetta,” and supported Gardner in the commission race.

In an interview Saturday evening, Gardner told the Daily Herald she was “overwhelmed and excited” to be elected to the county commission.

“I’m really excited, but I just want to get to work,” said Gardner. “I can’t wait until Monday so we can start developing a strategic vision and helping the county grow and finding ways to innovate and better serve our citizens. So I’m just excited to get to work.”

The current commission still needs to accept Gardner’s nomination, at which point Gardner said she would resign as clerk/auditor and be sworn in as commissioner. She said she expects that process to happen early next week.

Upon Gardner’s resignation as clerk/auditor, the commission would notify the Utah County Republican Party, which would have 30 days to nominate a replacement. Deputy Clerk/Auditor Josh Daniels would be the sitting clerk/auditor during the interim period, according to Gardner.

Gardner will serve out the remainder of Ainge’s term, which ends in 2022. She said she anticipates running for the commission seat in next year’s election.

With her nomination by the Utah County Republican Party on Saturday, Gardner became the first woman to be elected to the Utah County Commission, something that she called “an honor.”

“Our county is full of some amazing, dedicated women, and I think this is such an honor that I get to represent those women on the commission for the first time,” Gardner said.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson congratulated Gardner on Twitter, as did the former commissioner she is replacing.

Ainge, who resigned in March after failing to submit post-arrival notice for his military training to the county, said Gardner being elected was a “big upgrade for Utah County,” adding that he is “excited to see her continue the same innovation and transformation she brought to the Clerk/Auditor’s office — but now to the county commission.”

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