Three people who served on the often-criticized Utah Transit Authority Board were sidestepped or hit roadblocks Tuesday as they sought slots on a three-person replacement commission, designed to restore trust in the agency.
In one case, Gov. Gary Herbert took an unusual step. He asked Salt Lake County to name additional nominees for its slot on the commission — which it did — signaling the governor was not satisfied with its two earlier-named candidates, including current UTA board member Troy Walker, the mayor of Draper.
Meanwhile, Utah County chose against nominating two applicants who had served on the UTA board: current member Jeff Acerson, who also is the mayor of Lindon, and Kent Millington, a former board member who had been critical of UTA and its sales tax subsidies.
That leaves only one current UTA board member still apparently standing as a candidate for the new commission: P. Bret Millburn, a Davis County commissioner. Millburn is one of two nominees his county proposed earlier this month.
Tuesday’s actions came on the final day Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties could nominate two or more nominees for the new full-time, three-member commission created by the Legislature to replace UTA’s current part-time, 16-member board, which was often seen as a rubber stamp for agency executives.
Herbert will choose whom to appoint, and the new board by law should assume control of UTA on or before Nov. 1. New commissioners will serve at the will of the governor, who may fire them at any time for any reason.
Herbert’s office earlier wrote counties saying it sought “highly qualified professionals” with advanced degrees and extensive experience who could make the new board “a transformational force to restore trust in public transportation.”
Some — including Salt Lake County Council member Richard Snelgrove — complained Salt Lake County failed to hit that high goal when it earlier nominated UTA Board member Walker (who said he would not resign as Draper mayor if appointed) and Laynee Jones, a former project manager for the Mountain Accord.
Herbert asked the county to give him more nominees — a strong indication that he wasn’t satisfied with his earlier options.
Paul Edwards, Herbert’s spokesman, would not quite say that, but wrote in an email, “From the beginning of this process, the governor has expressed his interest in finding candidates with a track record of strong leadership and who were free from conflicts and controversy.”
Edwards added, “Gov. Herbert felt that Salt Lake County and UTA could benefit were the county to broaden its pool of candidates. Gov. Herbert did not request this of the other two counties,” Utah and Davis.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams then nominated, and the County Council endorsed, current County Council member and realtor Max Burdick and Carlton Christensen, director of the county’s Department of Regional Transportation, Housing and Economic Development and a former Salt Lake City Council member.
McAdams praised Christensen as “extremely well qualified” as director of the county department that looks at transportation planning. Also, he said Burdick approached him saying he would like to be nominated, “and if that is the will of the council, that is also something I am willing to support.”
That brings the total number of Salt Lake County nominees to four, including Walker and Jones.
Meanwhile, Utah County had 10 applicants for its shared slot (Tooele County is required by law to give its advice on it), including current UTA Board member Acerson and former member Millington, who recently retired as chairman of the highway- and airport-overseeing Utah Transportation Commission.
It sidestepped them and instead nominated Pleasant Grove City Council member Ben Stanley, who is also an attorney, and former Cedar Hills City Council member Rob Crawley, owner of a consulting firm called Retail Consulting Team.
Milburn was one of two people nominated by Davis County for a slot controlled by it, Weber and Box Elder counties. The other is Bountiful City Council member Beth Holbrook, who is also president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.