Salt Lake County’s nine-member council is made up of a compilation of contrasting political ideologies, yet according to Richard Snelgrove, the council’s newly appointed chair, the group respects one another and regularly enacts policy that bridges the partisan divide.
Snelgrove was unanimously elected earlier this month, taking over the chair from Aimee Winder Newton. All council incumbents up before voters in November were re-elected so Republicans continue to hold a 5-4 majority.
Snelgrove, a life-long Republican, said the majority party members regularly side with Democrats to achieve consensus.
“We all have our political persuasions — liberals, conservatives,” he said. But “votes tend to be near unanimous.”
It won’t be Snelgrove’s first time serving as council chair. He previously held the role, which switches yearly, in 2015.
Snelgrove is an at-large council member first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. He previously was Salt Lake County Republican Party chairman and state Republican Party chairman; he ran for Congress in 1988, losing to Rep. Wayne Owens; and served as district director for Utah Congressman Merrill Cook, a two-term Republican. He unsuccessfully ran for Murray City mayor in 2017.
Snelgrove is president of Snelgrove Travel Center Inc., and serves on the Clark Planetarium board, the Municipal Services District board, the county Redevelopment board and on the United Fire Authority board.
He said the most pressing issue facing the council currently is the federal government shutdown and the adverse impacts it is having on Salt Lake County. The council is taking inventory to determine the best course of action, especially if the shutdown is prolonged.
“We need to be prepared and help address it as best we can,” Snelgrove said. “Even if we don’t know how long it will last.”
Everything from passport services to the Utah Women, Infants and Children program, intended to supply low-income mothers, infants, children and soon-to-be mothers with necessary supplies and food, may be harmed by a prolonged shutdown. Snelgrove said the council is looking for solutions to help alleviate the effects so programs can stay up and running.
Other issues Snelgrove said the council plans to focus on this year include leveraging Utah’s booming economy, steering towards greater governmental efficiencies via consolidation, open-space acquisition, particularly aimed towards the Oquirrh Mountains and making sure efforts to alleviate homelessness are executed properly.
“Hopefully we can put a dent in things and there can be action instead of mere talk,” Snelgrove said.
In regards to potential Oquirrh Mountain land acquisitions, Snelgrove said the Wasatch Mountains are already well-traversed by thousands of visitors and in danger of overuse. Opening more recreational and leisure opportunities in the Oquirrhs may be the best way to take pressure off of the Wasatch Mountains.
“I particularly have my eye on the south side of Butterfield Canyon. It would be wonderful if at some point in the future Butterfield Canyon can be an amenity in the Oquirrh Mountains as is Millcreek Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains,” Snelgrove said. “That won’t happen overnight, but it is something that we have to keep our eye on moving forward.”
Snelgrove said the council also plans to find ways to leverage Salt Lake County’s “hot economy” because employers are relaxing their hiring standards, which might give those fighting substance abuse or a criminal record a chance, or even a second chance in the job market.
Doing so could be a lifetime course correction for some of these individuals, Snelgrove said.
The council plans to channel its working relationships in order to tackle issues pertinent to Salt Lake County — and to do so as a bipartisan body, he said.
“All nine of us on the County Council have experienced winning and losing on a particular issue. We respect our colleagues and recognize that in their minds they are basing decisions on what they feel is in the best interest of the people they serve,” Snelgrove said. “So onward we go.”