Prospective candidates who may run for the new Tooele County Council in November got an idea what may be expected of them to perform their duties well during a recent meeting at Tooele City Hall.
As reported in last Tuesday’s edition, a training and information meeting for potential County Council candidates was held Jan. 23. Aimee Winder Newton, member of the Salt Lake County Council; Gina Worthen, member of the Cache County Council; and Tooele County Commission Chairman Tom Tripp offered some insights to attendees.
Their advice comes as the county prepares to transition from a 3-member commission form of government to an elected, 5-member part-time council and a hired, full-time executive manager. Voters approved the change in 2018 and it will take effect next January. Voters will elect three County Council members this fall while Tripp and County commissioner Kendall Thomas will serve out the remainder of their four-year terms in the other two County Council seats.
Worthen said communication to “stay in the loop” is the biggest challenge while serving on a part-time council. “If you’re there during business time all of the time, then you have a way of connecting to the people that work for you and citizens,” she said. “You kind of lose that as a part-time council member.”
Worthen said after she was elected to the Cache County Council, she met with department heads and elected county officials to talk about what their offices do and things they need. She said that helped her to build relationships and stay connected with county officials and employees.
With County Council races about to begin here, Worthen’s words are timely. But in those words is also some implied advice: To be a good part-time County Council member takes more than a part-time approach. A deeper time commitment and strong communication are required, or staying “in the loop” isn’t possible.
Who better to know this than Tripp and Thomas, both of whom are in their second year as full-time county commissioners and will become part-time County Council members next January. Tripp offered an important caveat during the meeting. He said the part-time County Council will have far less time to look at the “profound details” of the county.
“… You are going to have a lot of data to understand, ordinances to read, budgets to review,” he said. “You need to be able to do that and take the time to do it.”
He’s right. The new County Council will have broad legislative powers and responsibilities; it must be on point from day one. Which sparks an idea: Knowing what’s at stake, Tripp and Thomas could share their experience to help create a time management and procedural template the new County Council and future County Councils can use to give “profound details” the time and due diligence they require.
Both men’s experience in this matter is an asset and could help make the government transition go more smoothly and prevent important details from being overlooked. “Building relationships” and staying “in the loop” will be a challenge for the new part-time County Council. Or not. Attitude, approach — and good preparation — are vital when it comes to serving the public well.