Dave Thomas appointed acting Summit County Attorney
Democratic Party has 30 days to select nominees
The Summit County Council has appointed Dave Thomas, chief civil deputy attorney, as acting county attorney following the unexpected death of Robert Hilder last week.
Hilder, who was 67 and county attorney since 2014, died suddenly from complications while undergoing chemotherapy treatment. He was diagnosed in early February with esophageal cancer.
Monday, in a special session, council members Chris Robinson, Roger Armstrong and Doug Clyde, unanimously agreed to appoint Thomas as acting attorney. Council members Kim Carson and Glenn Wright were not present.
Hilder had already turned over the duties of his office to Thomas while in treatment. Thomas has previously served as a state senator and vice chair of the Utah State Board of Education. He has worked in Summit County for 21 years and was a judge advocate for the U.S. Army.
“Robert was thoughtful enough and careful enough to make sure that he delegated his responsibilities to the people that worked for him, including empowering Dave Thomas on the civil side and empowering Patricia Cassell on the criminal side to handle the criminal matters,” Armstrong said. “I believe he has left us in a very good position at all levels at the county attorney’s office. We will miss Robert terribly, but we are confident that office will continue to function at a very high level during this interim period.”
Friday, the County Council asked the Summit County Democratic Party begin the formal process of seeking nominations for a new county attorney. The Democratic Party has 30 days to forward up to three qualified nominees.
“The County Council ultimately has 45 days to make a decision on the party’s nominees,” Thomas said. “The council will have open interviews because it is a public official.”
In order to qualify for county attorney, a nominee must be a citizen of the United States and a licensed attorney who is an active member in good standing of the Utah bar. Generally, the Utah Election Code requires a candidate for county attorney to be a resident of the county for one year prior to the general election. However, with an appointment mid-term, the candidate for county attorney is allowed to become a resident of the county within 30 days after appointment, according to Thomas.
Cheryl Butler, chair of the county’s Democratic Party, said while she has received the council’s letter “we are not focusing on the replacement right now.”
“We have plenty of time and they have been working with an interim head in that department for some time now,” Butler said. “We are encouraging everyone to give the family their condolences and time to grieve before we even think about a replacement.”
An executive committee meeting will be scheduled later this month, Butler said, adding “there will be a public notice announcing we are seeking nominations, as well as a separate notice saying we will have a county convention so our delegates can choose the nominees.”
Butler alluded to a promotion from within the county attorney’s office, saying “there are a number of qualified attorneys who are already working there.” But she also acknowledged there are others in the community who may be interested in filling the role.
Butler said the notices won’t likely be published until after the services are held honoring Hilder, which will be from noon to 2 p.m. Monday, May 15, in the Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library. An informal memorial gathering will be held at noon, on Wednesday, May 3, in courtroom N-42 at the Matheson Courthouse, located at 450 S. State Street.
“Judge Hilder was brilliant. He was a well-respected judge who came with an amazing resume and we were so fortunate to have him,” Butler said. “It will be very difficult to find someone, in my opinion, who will be willing to step up and fill those shoes.”
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.