With the new year comes several new faces in Utah County government.
Five county officials were sworn in Monday at the Utah County Historic Courthouse, of which only Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee was a returning incumbent.
Each of these new officials has a vision different from that of his or her predecessor, and Utah County can expect to see changes coming to most aspects of government, from elections to prosecution of crimes.
Ainge will sit in his first commission meeting Tuesday morning after having cruised to victory over both a primary opponent and a third-party opponent in the general election.
First brought into the spotlight when he ran against now-Rep. John Curtis for an open Third Congressional District seat, Ainge later decided to run for a commission seat left open by one-term commissioner Greg Graves.
Ainge began his career in the venture capital and private equity industry, but has said that when headlines began appearing about a sexual harassment complaint and investigation into Graves, it concerned him enough to run for the office.
Graves had been called upon by his fellow commissioners, numerous legislators and other local leaders to resign, following an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint that, while it couldn’t confirm the complaint, concluded that Graves exhibited bullying behaviors. Graves opted to finish out his term rather than resign.
Ainge promised during his remarks at the swearing in ceremony that, while he will make mistakes during his term in office, he will remain ethical and hardworking.
“I’ve heard it said that the only real failures are failures of ethics and failures of effort,”Ainge said. “And I can pledge that that won’t happen on my watch. The people of Utah County deserve to know that their elected officials are working hard on their behalf, and that they’re carrying out their responsibilities with honesty and integrity in all they do. That is what I will bring to this office.”
David Leavitt, who is taking over for departing Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman, said that even after a tough campaign, he’s impressed with the welcome he’s received from the Utah County Attorney’s office staff.
In the Republican primary, Leavitt ran against Utah County’s criminal division chief, Chad Grunander, who was backed by Buhman. Despite this, Leavitt lauded Buhman for inviting him into the office after he won the election to facilitate a smoother transition.
In an act Leavitt described as “classy,” Grunander decided to stay on with the Utah County Attorney’s office after losing the election.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the members of the Utah County Attorney’s office, and I thank you for your welcoming arms and I look forward to working with you in the coming years,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt said his goal for the county attorney’s office is that every case will be handled and examined with the scrutiny an individual would hope to see on his or her own case.
Amelia Powers is bringing her business consulting experience to the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s office, which Governor Gary Herbert called the “epicenter of dysfunction” during this last election cycle.
Taking over an office with known problems was, at first, overwhelming to her, Powers said. But, after meeting with other local officials, she is convinced that everyone else is willing to work with her to keep Utah County one of the best places to live and raise a family.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Powers said.
Powers has already been working behind the scenes to identify funding to purchase additional equipment and improve efficiencies in the Utah County Clerk’s Office. Powers has previously said she will need $2.5 million in additional funding to prepare for the next presidential election, and has already identified $1 million in available grants.
Mike Smith, former Pleasant Grove Police Chief, reflected on his first four months as sheriff after being sworn in a few months early when sitting Utah County Sheriff resigned in August.
September saw the rapid growth and subsequent response to the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires, forcing Smith to respond to a crisis shortly after being sworn in.
“If I had a dollar for every time I heard, ‘Wow, you really jumped into the fire,’ I would have a couple bucks,” Smith joked.
But Smith said those months allowed him to see the sheriff’s department and the rest of the community come together and unite to get through the problem.
“The teamwork was nothing less than significant and amazing,” Smith said. “I am so proud of our team in Utah County and the job they did during that crisis.”