County loses employees with half-century of experience, ties to East Side
Several longtime and influential Summit County employees have retired or moved on in recent weeks, with job responsibilities ranging from overseeing record-keeping of the East Side’s 9,000 septic systems to overhauling the annual County Fair in Coalville.
The departures of Anita Lewis, Brent Ovard and Travis English account for more than a half-century of experience with the county, something County Manager Tom Fisher called “irreplaceable.”
“We’re never going to be able to gain that back right away,” Fisher said, pointing out the deep ties to the community the public servants had fostered.
Lewis wore many hats in her nearly 30 years with the county, including as assistant county manager and later as assistant manager for rural affairs. Fisher touted her role as a liaison between the county government and the rural areas of the county, a position he said is critical.
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Ovard retired after 27 years with the Health Department, where he had risen to the post of deputy director. He received an award last year from the Utah Environmental Health Association celebrating his career achievements in the field.
Director Richard Bullough called him an “anchor” for the department whose steadiness and hard work set the tone for many.
English came on board more recently, but the fruits of his efforts might be more visibly apparent to county residents. He started a two-year contract in 2013 to help turn around a County Fair with declining attendance and ended up in charge of permitting and planning for all of the county’s special events.
The county is in the process of hiring for the vacated positions, and has already chosen Phil Bondurant to step in as the new deputy director of the Health Department. Fisher said the county hopes to get a replacement for English in time for this year’s fair, Aug. 3-10.
Lewis declined to be interviewed for this story, saying she preferred to step away quietly.
But her retirement made some noise around the county, as she has overseen or been involved with seemingly every aspect of how the county interacts with its residents, especially on the East Side.
Fisher described her role in recent years as managing functions like senior services, the history department, and events and special affairs, as well as administering the processes for the restaurant tax grants and Recreation Arts and Parks culture grants.
Lewis transitioned to assistant manager for rural affairs a couple of years ago, and the county hired Janna Young as deputy county manager in 2018 in a role that resembled what Lewis had been doing.
Fisher said the county may reorganize the job responsibilities for the next hire, and the focus will be on continuing outreach to East Side communities.
“The main thing is we want to make sure we have a robust community-engagement process,” Fisher said, “listening to and engaging with all viewpoints in the county.”
Fisher said he would “forever be in (Lewis’) debt” for the help she gave him when he started with the county in 2015.
“Anita was great, so welcoming and helped me understand the county better,” he said. “She just really wanted the county to be successful, that’s how she operated.”
For a very long time, Bullough said, Brent Ovard was “the go-to guy” in the Health Department.
Starting as a health inspector 27 years ago, Ovard worked his way up to deputy director, a post he remained in until his retirement earlier this year. He also served as interim director of the department when Bullough’s predecessor retired in 2009.
Bullough touted Ovard’s humility, honesty and propensity for hard work, traits he helped instill in the many employees he took under his wing as a mentor. Ovard was trusted and respected around the county, Bullough said, which helped when it came time to expand certain projects, especially in East Side communities.
His connections gave the department a window into the community, Bullough said, which allowed it to address issues before they might blow up into larger problems.
One example he cited was Ovard’s push to address aging wastewater systems around the county, which without attention could have led to sewage seeping into the Weber River, a major source for drinking water for 600,000 people in the Wasatch Front.
Ovard led a review and overhaul of wastewater policies and worked to document the more than 9,000 septic systems around the county.
“Brent dealt with some really hard issues and always did it with a grin on his face and charged forward,” Bullough said. “I think he was kind of an anchor, a stabilizing force. … We’re going to miss that.”
The Park Record could not reach Ovard for comment. The department has chosen Bondurant as its new deputy director, promoting him from his previous role as the department’s environmental health director.
When Travis English came over from the Kimball Arts Center in 2013 to help run the County Fair, he said it was “sight unseen.”
“I’d never been to the fair, never been to a demolition derby. The engines were revving and the smoke and oh my goodness, where have I ended up?” English recalled with a laugh.
But he said he embraced the experience and learned a lot, transitioning from his original two-year contract to direct the fair to a full-time role in 2015, handling all of the special events and film permitting for the county.
“I love my job, it’s great,” English said. “I never know what hat I’m wearing, a cowboy hat, artist’s beret, a special events hat.”
English said he was brought in to turn around a fair that was facing declining attendance. Less than five years later, the county had invested $5 million to expand the fairgrounds, and he said the county is selling out the rodeos and derbies.
He said he feels like he’s been successful in the venture and it’s time for a new opportunity. He will work for the Western Electricity Coordinating Council in Salt Lake City doing training and outreach.
“It’s new and fresh and exciting, and I’m excited to keep learning,” English said.
Fisher said English has done a “tremendous” amount of work in preparing for this year’s fair, making sure the volunteers and organizations that help out with the event will do so again.
He said in the short term, the county has the functions of the position covered, but that he intends to advertise the opening quickly with the hopes of getting a new candidate on board in time for this year’s fair.
The annual Summit County Fair will be held Aug. 3-10 at the fairgrounds, 202 E. Park Road, Coalville.
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The Park City post of the American Legion has canceled an annual Memorial Day ceremony normally held at the Park City Cemetery, citing the efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.