by Becky GINOS
FARMINGTON—In an unprecedented move, current Commissioner Jim Smith stepped down as chair last week and was replaced by Commissioner Randy Elliott in the post.
Smith did not seek re-election and will leave the commission at the end of the year. Commissioner Bret Millburn did not win the Republican nomination so he will be leaving as well.
“I had planned to stay,” said Smith. “But when we realized Randy would be the only one with experience we decided to give him six months of time in the chair so that if he had questions or needed help with procedural things he could ask me or Bret. It’s best for the county to have a little bit of continuity.”
Elliott has been in office since January 2017. “I’ll be the last man standing,” he said. “It seemed appropriate for me to go in as chair so that I could get my feet wet before the new people take office. It will be a training ground so that I can transition smoothly as I do the job.”
As a commissioner, Elliott wears many hats. “You don’t really know all the duties they have for you,” he said. “When we didn’t have an animal control director – I became the director. Nobody told me I’d be doing that. I learned more about animals than I’ve ever known.”
Smith and Elliott will switch some of their current responsibilities with Elliott overseeing personnel instead of libraries. “As chair I need to be over personnel,” said Elliott. “I have to double check documents and GRAMA requests and speak to the press and media. I’ll learn what comes along with the position.”
There are always surprises though, he said. “For example we found out a culvert is failing on Pages Lane under the railroad tracks. We had to work with the Union Pacific people within 24 hours to get it repaired so it didn’t disrupt service. We didn’t know about it but then when we found out we had to move as quickly as possible.”
For the most part, both Smith and Elliott will continue in their current board posts. “I’ll still do justice court, public works, water and natural resources,” said Elliott. “Those are sort of my area of training. You become friends with the people on the boards and get the departments running so you don’t want to give it up.”
When the new commissioners come on they’ll mix up some of the assignments to give everyone new opportunities, he said.
The commission is working on various projects, including the Syracuse library remodel. They’re in discussions about the Clearfield and Bountiful libraries. “Those were built as bomb shelters originally,” said Elliott. “But now it would cost more to remodel them than to build new ones. Library usage is going up. People still want a book in hand. All these meetings take a lot of time.”
Elliott has also been involved with decisions about the Legacy Events Center. “We have a survey out right now to figure out what it looks like in the future,” he said. “Does it become all sports or is there still a place for equine? It was bought and paid for by tourism dollars so we need to make the investment bring tourism into the community.”
With the shift, Elliott took over as chair on June 1 and Millburn will continue as Vice Chair until the end of his term.
“This makes more sense,” said Smith. “It would be unfair to the county and to him not to give him the resources he needs for the technical challenges. We’ve been talking about ways to get him prepared for next year when he becomes chair so we thought ‘why not let him have it now so he can ask us questions?’”
I think this is a good opportunity for him and the county.”