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JOHNSON, GARDNER SQUARING OFF IN PRIMARY FOR COMMISSION SEAT

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Richard A. Johnson says it will take an experienced politician to solve problems in Utah County, including the clean-air issue. David J. Gardner says the troubles require fresh solutions.

The two candidates will square off in Tuesday's primary for the Republican nomination for the four-year Utah County Commission Seat B and the right to oppose Independent candidate Jim Larsen.Gardner, a relative newcomer to politics, surprised some with his strong showing in the Utah County Republican platform and nomination convention, where he not only remained in the race but received more delegate votes than incumbent Johnson.

"Without experience, I can bring a freshness to the political arena," Gardner said. He served as chairman of the Utah County Family Life Conference for three years and as a therapist for the Utah County Council on Drug Abuse Rehabilitation. This is his first attempt at public office.

"The obligation and goal of every public servant should be to make specific aspects of life easier for those he or she serves," said Gardner, the treatment coordinator for adult psychiatry at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. "It doesn't really matter what a person's particular job is. Public officials must listen carefully to people's concerns and then help make their jobs easier."

Johnson, who stepped down from a seat on the Nebo Board of Education in 1990 to run for the commission, pledged to continue his efforts to reduce taxes, increase employment and economic development and maintain a high standard of living for Utah County residents.

"I'm committed to continue in the direction we've taken in the past several years," he said. "That direction has seen no county tax increase in the past four years, the lowest per capita spending for county government in the state, the lowest unemployment rate in Utah and the highest per capita growth in economic development of any county in the nation.

"I believe I have a good working relationship with the people who can best work together in assuring a good quality lifestyle here in Utah County," Johnson said. "That's why I'm seeking another mandate from the people to continue representing their interests for four more years."

Johnson said he opposes federal intrusion into county issues, especially concerning air quality. He supports the nine-point plan proposed by the commission to reduce emissions.

"We don't need Washington telling us what is good and bad for us," Johnson said. "I will continue to fight for control of our own clean-air situation against unproven federal mandates that will burden local taxpayers and put both small- and large-business men and women out of business."

Gardner agrees to a point, saying that county officials must fight needless interference from state and federal government. However, he said county leaders have been lax and haven't taken charge of the air-quality issue.

"(The commission has) been drawing lines in the sand, but you can blow those lines away," Gardner said. "By taking action earlier they could have drawn those lines in granite."

In addition, Gardner said that alternatives must be found to "excessive government mandates" that "will return control to the people of Utah County."

Johnson has served as the chairman and vice chairman of the Utah County Council of Governments, as well as chairman of the State Riverway Enhancement Board, on the executive board of the Utah Association of Counties and for three years on the State Substance Abuse Coordinating Council.

The first-term commissioner also pointed to current programs in place with the Utah County Sheriff's Department, including the Utah County sheriff's gang task force, as positive moves against the encroachment of gangs.

On that issue, Gardner said that proper management is critical.

"Management of the systems that support our growth is essential," Gardner said. "We must have a long-term plan to manage growth if we are to maintain the quality of life we have created in Utah County. We must also act now to stop gangs from further infiltrating our schools and communities. Maintaining and supporting family values is the key to a safe community."

A Benjamin resident, Johnson favors the current "gentleman's agreement" that guarantees equal representation of county areas on the commission.

"The best way to serve everyone is have everyone represented," he said. "County government works best when we have representation from the north, south and central parts of the county like we have now. With the other two commissioners coming from the central and north parts of the county, we have a team that works well together."

Gardner, however, lives in Springville and said the commission must represent the entire county.

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Additional Information

Primary previews

During the 10 days preceding Tuesday's primary election, the Deseret News is publishing a series of articles on candidates and the issues they are discussing.

In coming days you'll see the following stories:

Saturday: Summit County Commission

Sunday: Election preview in the Sunday Extra package

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Utah County Commission seat B

DAVID J. GARDNER (R) RICHARD A. JOHNSON (R)

-- Why are you running, and why should voters vote for you instead of your opponent?

Gardner

I felt like we needed a change in county government. I'm a better leader than a follower, and I'm not a politician. I hope to bring some freshness to the political arena.

Johnson

As county commissioner, I have worked to keep taxes low, balance the budget, prepare for growth and maintain the quality of life we enjoy. I'm committed to continue in the direction we've taken in the past several years.

___ What role can the county play in reducing air pollution?

Gardner

We should have played more of a role than we have. The (Utah County Commission's) proposal is way too weak and way too late in the game. But we can tie up things in litigation until we come up with programs that are more appropriate. It's what the commission should have already been doing.

Johnson

It's my job to ensure that wasteful federal programs are not introduced here. We've all seen the negative effects of government encroachment. For example, as commissioners, we are opposing the proposed enhanced emission testing.

--- Is it feasible to develop Utah Lake? If so, what role should the county play?

Gardner

Yes, and the county should facilitate development. But the county has got to get private industry involved and act as a facilitator between interested parties.

Johnson

Development around the lake will more than pay for itself. What the county has to do is make sure the area is ready to be developed. It will be a great benefit.

--- Should county services expand to keep pace with growth? If so, can this be done without a tax increase?

Gardner

Hopefully, we'll be able to expand at a rate where the increased tax proceeds will pay for the increased services. Whether those services expand may depend on the breadth of our tax base.

Johnson

Even though our communities have seen tremendous, sustained growth, we've been able to control and minimize the growth of county government - quite a contrast from government on the federal level.

---What role should county government play in local economic development?

Gardner

Attract the quality businesses with the highest-paying jobs. But they also need to ask the companies what are you willing to give to the county rather than have the county give to them.

Johnson

Utah County has, in the past few years, enjoyed the greatest economic growth of any county in Utah. This growth has been the result of a healthy environment for doing business in Utah County - i.e. a broad tax base and a cooperative relationship between business and county government.

-- What role can the county play in reducing crime and violence and possibly curtailing gang activity?

Gardner

Obviously, work with education. But also take a zero-tolerance approach where we get tough early on. We've got to stop gangs from emerging in the next 12 to 18 months before we get behind the eight-ball.

Johnson

By helping coordinate city efforts. The Utah County Sheriff's Department is set up to help cities deal with the problem, by providing information and leadership.