Bipartisan group wants voters to explore a change to Weber County's form of government

Ogden At a time when Ogden business owner Oscar Mata says Democrats and Republicans “can’t seem to agree on what day of the week it is,” members of a new bipartisan group have one thing in common: the desire to explore a change in Weber County’s form of government.

In that spirit, the group of business leaders and current and former state legislators, mayors and county commissioners held a news conference Thursday to discuss their petition for a 2018 ballot measure that would form a commission studying a shift away from the county’s current three-person commission.

“It’s so encouraging to see Republicans, Democrats [and] Independents — who typically on election years are fighting against one another — for all us to come together and stand up for the people in the county and ensure they have a voice,” said Mata, co-chairman of Weber County Forward.

Webert County’s three commissioners now work full time to serve 250,000 residents. As the county continues to grow and become more diverse, members of the group said they want to see those residents have more representation.

“The study and potential change of form of government in Weber County could open the door to the creation of a more diverse body that would give a better voice to the more than 45,000 ethnically and racially diverse members of our community that made Weber County their home,” said Ogden City Councilman Luis Lopez.

Weber election officials approved the petition language Friday. Weber County Forward members said they hope to see the item on the 2018 primary ballot — but to do that, they’ll first need to gather 8,601 signatures from registered voters.

County Commissioner Kerry Gibson, a former Republican state legislator, said he’s confident the group will be able to get the signatures.

“This really is one of those issues where there’s a groundswell,” he said. “I can feel it as I talk to people.”

If voters back the measure, the county would create a commission to research options for a new form of government. That committee would have several forms to choose from: an expanded county commission with five or seven members or a five or seven-member county council with an elected mayor or appointed manager.

The entire process could take as long as three years, Gibson said. If a change was ultimately approved, any new form of government would likely come with increased costs to the county. But Gibson noted cost is “only part of that equation.”

“What I want is to have the right kind of debate and conversation — and if we have that, then a good choice will be made,” he said.

As a group, Weber County Forward isn’t advocating for a specific form of government, Mata said, though everyone likely has an individual preference.

“What we are promoting is the voter’s ability to have the conversation,” he said. “Even though we might have different views on basically everything else, we do think this is a conversation that needs to happen, so we’ve come together.”