Melvin Nimer is a businessman.
Joseph Demma works in state government.
Each believes his background makes him the better choice for Republicans in the June 26 primary that will decide who tries to end Democrat Jim Bradley’s tenure as an at-large member of the Salt Lake County Council.
“I’ve actually worked in organizations that have taken large government budgets and made them smaller and more efficient,” said Demma, communications director in the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Nimer, the president of two companies, contends he has “over 30 years of business-management accounting experience, working with budgets and managing two to 100 people, that my opponent doesn’t have.”
While they would come at it from different perspectives, both candidates agree the county is headed toward leaner times.
“I would reprioritize everything,” Nimer said. “I have a three-point litmus test: Is it sustainable, affordable and really needed and wanted? If we can’t afford it or it’s not really needed, we don’t do it.”
Demma said he would approach the county’s budget much the same way that he has dealt with Workforce Services’ slightly larger budget as a member of the department’s management team.
“We’re looking at money going down. The feds are cutting. We have to prepare for that, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re the best-prepared Workforce Services department in the country to deal with it.”
Before joining Workforce Services, Demma was the 2010 campaign manager for Gov. Gary Herbert, proudly pointing out that his candidate soundly defeated Democrat Peter Corroon, who is not seeking a third term this fall as Salt Lake County mayor.
When Herbert was lieutenant governor, Demma served as his chief of staff, managing the deployment of voting machines across the state and writing the policies governing early voting and online-voter registration.
He also was on then-Gov. Jon Huntsman’s staff.
“I’m raised in the Huntsman and Herbert tradition,” he said. “I’m for openness and transparency. You’re always going to know where I’m at. … Everyone eats at the table. Everyone may not agree with the decision, but all will be part of how we shaped the decision. There will be no surprises with me.”
Since 2006, Nimer has operated New Start Business Services Inc., which helps small companies with accounting, preparation of tax returns and general consulting services.
Last December, Nimer also started Air Sim Corp., which provides radio communication training facilities for student pilots.
“I’ve looked at dozens of business plans and reviewed what any new or ongoing business does to stay current and to know what it is responsible for,” he said.
“That’s one of the main problems with the county. Most of the people serving there don’t have that,” Nimer added. “They’re mostly government people. They don’t understand how to keep things in balance.”
He said the County Council must make maintaining public safety its top priority, followed by providing adequate funding for infrastructure, protecting the watershed and funding health, aging and mental health services.
“We have to make sure the required things are paid for first,” Nimer said. “When we run out of money, then we have to look at what we have to do next — raise taxes, cut departments and staff, sell off facilities, whatever is needed to keep [the county’s] AAA bond rating.”
Demma said he would focus on keeping taxes and fees low to stimulate economic development and job creation.
“Our county is the economic engine of Utah, and proper, responsible planning of county infrastructure will ensure that does not change,” he said, adding that he opposes bonding for new parks, would get rid of county lobbyists and would look into privatizing some services.
Both candidates expect Millcreek residents to vote to incorporate this November and emphasized the need for the county to plan for the loss of that area — and its tax revenues.
They also agreed that Nimer’s sexual orientation — he is gay and the former president of Utah Log Cabin Republicans — will not be an issue in the election.
The County Council already has its first openly gay member: Arlyn Bradshaw, who was elected two years ago.
Meet Melvin Nimer
Party • Republican
Age • 62
Family • Five children, 10 grandchildren, engaged
Occupation • President of New Start Business Services Inc. and Air Sim Corp.
Education • Graduate of Orem High and Brigham Young University
Civic experience • Past president Utah Log Cabin Republicans, former treasurer of Utah Pride Center
Fun fact • A former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, he’s a private pilot and “a bit of a computer nerd.”
Meet Joseph Demma
Party • Republican
Age • 34
Family • Wife Lisa
Occupation • Director of communications, Utah Department of Workforce Services
Education • Bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Nevada
Civic experience • Co-founder of “Be Ready Utah” emergency preparedness program, co-founder of Family Justice Center capital campaign
Fun fact • He and his wife are the “parents” of two Labrador retrievers, Andee and Zoey.