State of the County 05

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge speaks during the State of the County Address held at the Utah Valley Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge announced Tuesday that he will attend a six-week military training in August and will carry out his commission duties remotely.

Ainge, who has chaired the commission since December, was sworn in to the Utah National Guard on May 9 as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer. JAG officers are responsible for acting as a legal resource for soldiers and investigating military crimes, according to the Army National Guard.

“Taking an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Utah is something I’ve done as a member of the bar and as a County Commissioner, but today this brings new purpose and meaning as I begin my service in the Guard,” Ainge said in a May Facebook post. “At different stages in life I have seriously considered joining the military and the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

In a letter to Utah County officials, Ainge said he received orders to attend a six-week training at Fort Benning in Georgia from Aug. 9 to Sept. 18 but would “be able to continue my official (Utah County Commission) duties, including participation in public meetings via telephone and video conferencing.”

“In this situation, Utah State Code provides an elected official with the option of taking military leave or continuing to fulfill their official responsibilities while away,” Ainge wrote. “Taking leave in this scenario, however, would create a vacancy on the Commission and require an interim election.”

The commissioner added that an interim election process “could take 40 days and result in an unfilled vacancy for the entire duration of my absence.”

“Given the disruption this could cause, I do not believe taking military leave would be the best outcome for those served by Utah County Government during this relatively brief Training Period,” said Ainge, adding that he would dedicate nights and weekends to “Utah County matters” during his training.

Ainge said on Twitter that the “Direct Commission Course” training would consist of “physical fitness, combat, land nav(igation), weapons, rifle marksmanship, leadership” and “general orientation” into the U.S. Army.

Ainge requested a decrease in pay to one-third of his current commissioner salary during his physical absence “because much of my time will be spent in military training.”

Other Utah County officials have served in the Utah National Guard while in office, Ainge pointed out on Facebook, including former Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman, who was deployed to Afghanistan, Utah County Republican Party Chairman Stewart Peay and state Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem.

“I am grateful for the example of these leaders … who have shown me how it is possible to balance service in the Guard with other responsibilities in the community,” he said. “Men and women of this caliber, who are committed to protecting our country at all costs, are the type of people I want to surround myself with and learn from.”

Ainge has a law degree from Northwestern University and has been licensed with the Utah Bar Association since October 2018. Before being sworn into public office in 2019, he worked in the private equity and venture capital industry.

Ainge placed an item on the agenda for Wednesday’s Utah County Commission meeting to inform county officials of his training orders and request a pay decrease during the six-week period.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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