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Former Utah County Commissioner David Gardner dies

Published May 3, 2013 10:12 am

Politics • His political career fizzled after DUI arrests.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Former Utah County Commissioner David Gardner, whose political career ended with a series of scrapes with the law and alcohol, died Tuesday.

He was 58. No cause of death was given in his obituary.

Gardner was first elected to the county's governing board in 1994, serving two full terms. His GOP star fell after two arrests for drunken driving and a charge that he assaulted a 9-year-old boy in a dispute over a broken flashlight.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert — who served on the County Commission with Gardner — said he was saddened by his former colleague's passing.

"At his best," Herbert said in a statement, "he was a kind, talented and dedicated public servant."

Gardner was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and had worked as a marriage and family therapist.

His legal woes began shortly after the start of his second commission term. Gardner was arrested near Spanish Fork in March 1999 and charged with DUI after his car left the road. His gas tank had ruptured, starting a brush fire.

Gardner claimed a hitchhiker offered him a drink. He eventually pleaded no contest to the charge, and the state agreed to drop the case if Gardner stayed out of trouble for nine months.

However, Gardner pleaded no contest in October 2000 to disorderly conduct after he reportedly picked up a neighbor's 9-year-old child by the neck in a dispute over a broken flashlight. That voided his earlier plea deal. The original DUI charge, however, was later dismissed on a technicality.

Later, in October 2000, Gardner was busted again for DUI. He pleaded guilty in 2001 to that charge along with having an open alcohol container in his car. He performed two days of community service.

After leaving office, Gardner was charged in 2007 with misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly groping, fondling and kissing a 26-year-old Payson woman during a car trip. Gardner pleaded no contest to reduced assault charges as part of a plea deal. He also had a third DUI arrest in May 2008 to which he pleaded guilty and spent 10 days in jail.

Stan Lockhart, who served as Utah County Republican chairman during part of Gardner's tenure, said he tries to focus on the good Gardner did as a public servant. He credited Gardner with ensuring the county stayed on a fiscally conservative course.

"He was a man who was kind and considerate," Lockhart said. "When someone came to him with a problem, he went to any length to help them solve it."

But Lockhart acknowledged Gardner had personal demons. Lockhart was the one who asked Gardner to step down from office after his second DUI arrest; Gardner refused.

"Dave was a case study in the truth that all human beings make mistakes," Lockhart said. "Unfortunately for him, he made some of those mistakes while serving in public office."

His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wheeler Mortuary in Springville, followed by graveside services at 3 p.m. in northern Utah's Hyde Park.

dmeyers@sltrib.com

David Gardner

Born Feb. 3, 1955

Died April 30, 2013