Two planning commissioners announce Summit County Council campaigns
There are six Summit County officials whose seats are up for reelection in November. All but one has decided to run again, and all are running as Democrats.
In addition to three seats on the County Council, the county’s assessor, recorder and treasurer positions will be on the ballot. The County Council seats are currently held by Roger Armstrong, Doug Clyde and Kim Carson.
Carson has announced she will not run again, and two members of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission have announced their intention to throw their hats into the ring for her seat: Canice Harte and Malena Stevens.
Assessor Stephanie Larsen, Recorder Rhonda Francis and Treasurer Corrie Forsling all said they will seek another term.
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Harte is running for County Council after being appointed to the Planning Commission six years ago.
“As you might imagine, I’m quite interested in the work,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve run for office. I’m really excited for it.”
Harte is a Pinebrook resident who moved to the area in 2006. He’s a vice president of sales and marketing for an Italian outdoor gear company and works with the Kimball Arts Center.
He’ll be running as a Democrat but said he was independent of party affiliation for a long time.
“I personally value pragmatic decisions,” Harte said. “I’m fiscally conservative and at the same time, I believe in helping people. I think that life can be challenging and you should do everything you can to make it as good and positive and better for the people around you.”
One of the reasons he’s seeking the office, he said, is the amount of discretion councilors can use while making decisions. The Planning Commission is often in the position of making administrative decisions about whether an application complies with the development code, as opposed to making legislative decisions that can take into account factors like public sentiment.
“A classic one was the Colby School, when that went through,” Harte said. “The Planning Commission may have, and most likely would have, made a totally different decision if it had not been presented to them as a conditional use permit, (which limited commissioners’ discretion.)”
Harte said he admires Carson’s level of professionalism and ability to navigate tricky situations. He added that he’s seeking the office to work with others to better the community.
“What I like about running for County Council is that your fellow council members are just making the best decisions they can for the community,” Harte said. “And I love that focus. That’s why I’m so keen on this.”
Stevens has been on the Planning Commission since 2017 and is the current chair. She has lived in the Snyderville Basin for eight years. She works as the executive assistant to the Park City chief of police and has worked as a victims’ advocate in the department. She said she would bring a different perspective to the County Council.
“I think that having different viewpoints is really critical in any sort of government capacity because we come to more innovative solutions when we have a variety of perspectives,” she said. “I think my perspective isn’t always represented on council and that is something that could be beneficial to the community.”
She said her experience as a victims’ advocate showed her the human impacts of decisions made by elected officials.
“I really was able to see for some of the marginalized populations we have, or victimized populations, how decisions that are made more broadly impact people, how affordable housing impacts people, how supporting nonprofits and the work that they do helps the mom whose fleeing with her kids from an abusive situation,” she said.
And as the mother of a 3-year-old, Stevens said she’s focused on seeking long-term solutions to problems that her son might inherit in 20 years when he’s graduated from college and considering moving back to the community.
“I think being a young working mom in this community has given me perspective into a lot of the concerns for families,” she said.
She said traffic, housing and growth would likely be large issues the council will grapple with in the coming years.
“We have some significant projects going on countywide right now on the East Side, in Park City, in other communities that are going to have a massive impact on the community as a whole going forward,” she said. “We’re just at a critical juncture as to how we handle these things.”
Armstrong last month was undecided about running again, but said on Monday he’d decided to take the plunge. He was first elected in 2012 and this would be his third term.
Clyde, who was sworn in as chair of the council last month, is seeking his second term after first being elected in 2016. He served for years on the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission and, as an Oakley resident, is the only East Side representative on the council.
Larsen, the county assessor, was appointed to the position in May to finish the term of Steve Martin, who retired earlier last year.
A Henefer resident, Larsen had worked as the deputy assessor in Morgan County for 15 years before coming to Summit County to work as an appraiser.
The assessor’s office appraises the value of property in Summit County, which impacts how much residents and businesses pay in taxes.
Larsen described an office in transition that is changing the way it collects and stores certain kinds of data and is working to cross-train employees. She said her No. 1 goal is to ensure equity in assessment between all socioeconomic groups, which can be challenging in a state where it is possible to hide the cost of a real estate transaction.
Larsen requested an additional full-time staff member this year and the council indicated it would consider providing the funding during the next budget cycle.
Francis, the recorder, is in charge of the county’s land records. She finished the term of a previous recorder and is now running for the second time in two years, after running unopposed in 2018 to fill the balance of the term.
She said she’s seeking another term because she likes her job, and said that it has daily responsibilities over and above managing staff. She previously served as the chief deputy recorder and said she is focused on training staff in mapping programs.
Forsling, the treasurer, said she has modernized the office and increased service levels in her nine years on the job. She pointed to a self-managed tax platform that helps automate tax payments as an accomplishment she is proud of.
Looking forward, she said she is focusing on spreading the word about tax breaks residents could take advantage of but aren’t and building a more robust tax office in Park City, especially during peak tax season.
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