Summit County Attorney nominee pool narrowed down to three | ParkRecord.com

Summit County Attorney nominee pool narrowed down to three

Candidates include local residents and current chief prosecutor

Last week, the Summit County Democratic Partys Central Committee narrowed the nominee pool down to three candidates for the new Summit County Attorney: Patricia Cassell, Margaret Olson and Jan McCosh. The County Council has scheduled open interviews with each of the candidates beginning at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, May 31.

The Summit County Democratic Party's Central Committee has narrowed a diverse nominee pool down to three candidates for the new Summit County Attorney: Patricia Cassell, Margaret Olson and Jan McCosh.

Last week, 45 members of the party's central committee voted on the eight candidates the party had previously selected to replace Robert Hilder, who died in April. Hilder, who was 67 and county attorney since 2014, died suddenly from complications while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Cheryl Butler, chair of the county's Democratic Party, said 10 rounds of voting were required to select the three nominees that the Summit County Council will be interviewing. Both Olson and McCosh are registered Democrats, while Cassell said she is unaffiliated.

The County Council has scheduled open interviews with each of the candidates beginning at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the County Courthouse in Coalville. The candidates will be interviewed in Conference Room 2 in the Courthouse.

The county attorney is responsible for prosecuting all criminal matters in the county, as well as overseeing juvenile court and any civil work or litigation. The county attorney will also be advising other county elected officials about potential litigation.

Margaret Olson

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Olson, who is a self-employed attorney with a private practice firm in Salt Lake City, said she considered Hilder a dear friend and it didn't immediately occur to her to throw her hat in the ring for the position.

But, Olson said once the job was listed, she changed her mind after realizing how qualified she was.

"Prior to 2016, I had considered running and my husband has been trying to nudge me along to that end ever since," Olson said. "I guess I would just say my motivation to run is I figured it was time to get involved."

Olson has been a Summit County resident for more than 20 years. She graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1992 and has been a member of the Utah Bar since. She has overseen her firm Hobbs & Olson for nearly 20 years and is also a licensed attorney in Idaho.

Olson said her firm's practice is focused in criminal defense and victim advocacy, as well as civil litigation. She is a former assistant district attorney for Salt Lake County and also served as a prosecutor in the Special Victim's Unit.

"I am ready to enter public service and politics and I had been thinking about doing so for quite some time. I am qualified to assume the duties and responsibilities of this office and commit to running for election in 2018," Olson said.

Patricia Cassell

Since July 2016, Cassell has served as the chief prosecutor in the Summit County Attorney's Office. For more than a decade, she worked as the assistant administrator in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and as a supervisor, handling high-profile homicide cases.

Cassell, who graduated from Georgetown University and became a member of the Utah bar in 1992, said she wants to continue the current work that is taking place in the county attorney's office because it is "really functioning at a high level right now."

"I want to be a consistent and stabilizing influence in the office and I want to continue the good work that we were doing," Cassell said. "Even though it has been very difficult with Robert's (Hilder) illness and ultimate death, we have come together as an office and I want to make sure we keep that going."

Cassell admits she does not have as much experience with civil litigation as Hilder did. However, she said she would still be comfortable stepping into that role.

"It would be a learning curve for me, but I would be exited to learn that side of the office because it's part of my growth as a professional," Cassell said. "I really do think we are a really strong office and we have exceptional attorneys and support staff. I wouldn't want to change any of that. Most people were there before Robert and he valued their work and I would to continue along that path."

Jan McCosh

McCosh, who is Hilder's widow, said he hired her in management 25 years ago when he recognized "that we carry the same sensibility of respecting and empowering others." McCosh said the two continued working closely together over the years, eventually opening a law practice together in 2011.

McCosh graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 2011 and began focusing her efforts on land use and the public process of creating development code.

McCosh said she was hesitant to apply for her husband's position because "those shoes are just enormous to fill."

"He brought 33 years of practice and 16 years on the bench and, frankly, I don't know of anyone that could bring that experience," McCosh said. "But when I decided to apply, I began focusing on what I could bring to the position rather than what void I could not fill."

McCosh said she is passionate about land use and creating a smart plan for future growth in our county and would like to help streamline the development process.

"Growth in eastern Summit County is expected. Our communities are interdependent and we need to address competing demands such as agriculture, environmental protection, trails, open space, wildlife, access to rivers, affordable housing, all while not unduly taking away property rights," McCosh said. "Whether its motocross or Bonanza Flats, I feel like I'm kind of in tune with the direction things have been going. I don't have an agenda to go in and change things up, but I would love to be able to bring what Robert offered, which is dignity, respect and just caring for people and their issues. I would love to carry that type of management forward as his legacy."

The County Council has scheduled open interviews with each of the candidates beginning at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the County Courthouse in Coalville. The candidates will be interviewed in Conference Room 2 in the Courthouse.

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