The Utah County Commission approved Tuesday a resolution to let voters decide in November whether the county should adopt a mayor-city council form of government.
In its public meeting, the commission voted 2-1 in favor of the resolution that, if passed on Nov. 3, would change the county’s form of government from a three-member commission elected at-large to a five-member, part-time city council elected in geographic districts and a full-time county mayor elected at-large.
The decision to pass the resolution comes after a year of debate whether the commission form of government is problematic since, under this style of leadership, there is no separation of executive and legislative duties.
It also comes a day after a citizen petition, led by Commissioner Bill Lee, to leave to voters the question of whether to expand the commission to five members appeared to fail to get enough signatures, according to an unofficial count from the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office.
Commissioners Nathan Ivie and Tanner Ainge voted in favor of Tuesday’s resolution while Lee voted against it.
“I would like to see this move forward to see if the voters approve of this,” Ivie said, adding that his support stems from “this concept of a separation of duties, responsibilities and powers that were inherent with … creating a distinctive executive and legislative body.”
“I obviously have a different opinion,” said Lee, who called the mayor-council proposal an expansion of government.
“There is a real reluctance for growing government,” Lee said. “And to go to a mayor-council form is going to be a tough sell, I think, across the county.”
Lee added that he felt consolidating executive powers from three commissioners to one mayor would be a detriment to the county.
“With that, I will be voting ‘no’ on this,” Lee said.
Last May, the Utah County Good Governance Advisory Board, which the commission established to research the question of whether to change forms of government, recommended that the county transition to a full-time mayor and seven member part-time council.
The commission had planned to vote whether to put this question on the November 2019 ballot. That vote never took place because of the petition filed at the last minute by Lee, which prevented the commission from making a decision one way or another.
The executive-council form of government proposal that residents will vote on in November would create a full-time county mayor position with a $120,000 annual salary, as well as a deputy mayor position with an $80,000 salary, according to the proposal.
Each part-time council member would be paid an annual stipend of $20,000 and would not receive standard employment benefits offered to other county employees and officials. Additionally, a council assistant would be hired and paid a salary of $65,000.
Ivie said the proposal would cut spending on county government by 34%.
Council members would be elected in five geographic districts. District 1 would cover west Utah County while Districts 2 and 5 would cover north and south county, respectively. District 3 would be made up of central Utah County cities with the exception of Provo, which would be in District 4.
If the proposal passes in November, a mayor and county council would be elected during the 2022 general election and take office on Jan. 2, 2023.
In an interview, Ivie said he supported the proposal because “it empowers the legislative body” and “guarantees local representation in the county.”
“It now moves into the hands of the public,” said Ivie.