Utah County's newest commissioner, sworn into office Monday, says he hopes his presence will help calm the county's roiling political waters and allow commissioners to get back to business.
"I think that we're going to be able to accomplish a lot in the next six months and move the government forward on a positive note," said Commissioner Gary Herbert after being sworn in by 4th District Judge George E. Ballif. "I'm just very optimistic about the future."Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck expressed optimism about Herbert's ability to help the commission move ahead after a week of political turmoil sparked when former Commissioner Brent Morris sought to regain the post he resigned May 31. Morris gave up the seat in keeping with a 3rd District congressional campaign promise, but wanted his seat back after being eliminated during the state GOP convention June 16.
Herbert, in an interview last week, said he hopes the newly structured commission can "move forward in a positive vein, in a unification effort and make sure that we get some things accomplished so that people can feel good about their county government again."
Asked whether a Democrat commissioner might balance out representation and effectiveness, Herbert replied, "I don't think we need a Democrat on the commission. I think a Democrat is certainly OK by me, but I think we just need qualified people who are willing to respond to people's needs."
Herbert, selected to serve the remainder of the year, plans to file next month to run for the remaining two years of Morris' former term. The weeklong filing period beginning July 2 will be open to anyone interested in running for the seat.
As past president of the Utah County Board of Realtors and the Utah State Association of Realtors, Herbert has been involved with building ordinances, zoning, private-property rights, real estate issues, small business and other areas that will serve him as a commissioner. He has been in real estate 21 years, owns his own real estate company and serves on a 12-member national task force monitoring federal Housing and Urban Development reforms.
"My background is real estate and small business, and that's the competent perspective that I bring," said Herbert, who has lived in Utah County all his life.
Herbert was one of six candidates submitted for consideration to commissioners Beck and Sid Sandberg last week by the county GOP central committee.
"He (Herbert) has some experience businesswise. He has some background in some areas that we might need. I think he's going to be an asset to the commission."
Morris, whom Herbert praised for his accomplishments as a commissioner, announced Saturday that he had switched to the Democratic Party. Since deciding last week not to sue the county to get his job back, Morris has been mulling employment options.
"My own personal plans right now are to look for a job and give my wife and kids a chance to rest from politics. A lawn-cutting business is still an option, I guess," he said.