Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Summit County Attorney
With Election Day approaching, and mail-in ballots on their way to residents, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions in their own words in order to help voters make informed decisions. View the answers of candidates in other races here.
What are your qualifications to serve as Summit County Attorney and why are you seeking another term?
Margaret Olson (Incumbent Democrat, unopposed): The County Attorney is the public prosecutor, responsible for enforcement of the law and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdictional boundaries of Summit County. The County Attorney is also legal counsel to the County and protects the County in civil actions. I am a 26 year criminal justice professional and trial lawyer with both criminal and civil experience.
I spend approximately one-third of my time in the Criminal Division (Park City office), attending District Court and Drug Court each week and periodically covering Justice Court. Another third of my time is spent in the Civil Division (Coalville office) where I have learned land use law, implemented a rule of procedure for land use appeals and oversee civil actions affecting the County. I also filed the first lawsuit in the State of Utah against opioid manufacturers and distributers with the goal of recovering funds to put into abatement, education and treatment for Summit County residents. The final third of my time I spend engaging with the County Council and working to achieve their ambitious strategic goals.
Now that I’ve spent the past year learning the job, I’m ready to work hard and serve a full term.
The Summit County Attorney’s Office oversees both criminal and civil matters. Are both areas being adequately addressed? How can either be improved?
Olson: I am very proud of the current team in our office. Our seven lawyers are among the most dedicated, hardworking and knowledgeable in the state. We have three very experienced and highly trained paralegals and our investigator has over 30 years experience in law enforcement. We work well together and support one another. My task is to help each of these professionals continue to be challenged, learn and grow as individuals and as team members. Another of my challenges is to develop a long term plan to transfer our senior attorneys’ vast institutional knowledge to a new set of attorneys who will continue to represent and protect Summit County in the manner and with the excellence current staff now does.
What, if any, changes have you made within the County Attorney’s office since taking over in June of 2017? Do you plan on making any changes during your next term?
Olson: Upon taking office, I reviewed the budget for fiscal inefficiencies. I procured a Spanish speaking Victim Advocate (Daisy Rocha Hodson), hired a Special Victim Prosecutor (Blake Hills) and a new Children’s Justice Center Director (Christie Hind). I also recovered Megan Galati (a former part-time employee of the office) and installed her as our full time Victim Advocate Coordinator. (None of these were new positions/costs, just replacements). I helped locate and worked to procure the purchase of a new, private, standalone Children’s Justice Center which is centrally accessible to North Summit, South Summit and Park City. We hope to have the new CJC facility operational by early 2019. No other changes are planned, although our team will always work to be as efficient, fiscally responsible and responsive to the needs of the community as possible.
Summit County has faced several lawsuits within the last year, including suits filed by Jeremy Ranch homeowners and the developers of the former Colby School property on S.R. 224. What has been the county’s strategy in addressing these lawsuits?
Olson: Neither of these matters were lawsuits against Summit County. Rather, they were/are land use appeals. Such proceedings have specific standards of review that can be confusing to non-lawyers. As County Attorney I work to insure that the process is fundamentally fair and that the Rule of Law is observed.
While the Colby School applicants filed a lawsuit against the County, the plaintiffs chose not to pursue it and the case will not be litigated. In every contested matter, there will be a winner and a loser. It is important to me that each party be afforded due process of law and a have full and fair opportunity to be heard. It has been my experience that when this occurs, even a losing party can accept the outcome and move forward.
According to the Summit County Clerk’s Office, ballots for the Nov. 6 election are set to begin arriving by mail on Friday, Oct. 19. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote online or at the Clerk’s Office through Oct. 30. Same-day registration will also be available at four voting assistance centers throughout the county on Election Day. Visit http://co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections for more information.
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The Park City Council primary election is slated for Aug. 13, but the ballots in the vote-by-mail contest were scheduled to be sent on Tuesday. The Summit County Clerk’s Office anticipates the ballots will arrive in mailboxes and post-office boxes on Friday or Saturday.