What you need to know about four key commission races on the primary ballot

Four Republican incumbents face challengers in Utah and Davis counties.

Top row, from left: candidates for the Davis County Commission: Lorene Miner Kamalu; Mark Shepherd; Bob Stevenson and Luke Elijah Brooks. Top row, from left: candidates for the Utah County Commission: Bill Lee; Brandon Gordon; Amelia Powers Gardner and Renee Tribe.

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Republican primary voters will decide three of the four county commission races in deep-red Davis and Utah counties this month, as long as a write-in candidate doesn’t submit a bid for any of the offices later this year.

County clerks will begin mailing ballots to active, registered voters Tuesday. The final day to request a mail-in ballot is June 21.

The primary election is June 28.

Utah County Commission Seat A

Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner, left, and Renee Tribe, candidates for the Republican nomination for Utah County Commission Seat A.

The lone contest that is certain to hit ballots in November for the general election will be the Utah County Commission’s Seat A. Incumbent Amelia Powers Gardner, the county’s former clerk/auditor, is seeking a full term after first being elected to fill a vacancy on the commission last year.

Before she can square off against Democrat Jeanne Bowen and unaffiliated candidate Tom Tomeny in the general election, she will have to secure the GOP nomination in a primary matchup against first-time candidate Renee Tribe.

Powers Gardner said she’s running again for the same reason she sought the office before — to help the county prepare for rapid growth.

“I love Utah County. I grew up in Utah County. I think it is the best place in the world to live and raise a family,” she said. “And as we grow at a rapid rate, we’re going to have to be proactive about preparing for that growth in order to keep Utah County the best place in the world to live and raise a family.”

Powers Gardner said she has approached her job by analyzing numbers and pursuing data-driven solutions. In her time on the commission, she said, she has helped the county secure a larger share of transportation money from the state that will help residents as the state’s second-most-populous county continues to swell.

She also aims to make government more efficient through innovation, such as creating online payment portals for residents. She wants to work with cities to find better solutions to the state’s water problems, including conservation and storage initiatives like aquifer recharge.

Tribe, who is seeking office for the first time, said she would excel as a commissioner because of her experience as a business owner and community volunteer. She said she felt compelled to jump into the race because residents need to participate in their government.

“I just know the importance of local government,” Tribe said. “It’s very important in protecting our personal rights and liberties. And I want to be in that position to continue to protect those rights and liberties for the residents of Utah County.”

Tribe said her time on Lindon’s planning commission has given her experience in how to deal with growth and affordable housing.

She said she feels “taxed to death,” and pledged to keep the county budget as lean as it can be and not raise property taxes. If elected, she said, she wants to spend public money efficiently and build relationships with local government leaders.

Utah County Commission Seat B

Utah County Commissioner Bob Lee, left, and Spanish Fork City Council member Brandon Gordon, candidates for the Republican nomination for Utah County Commission Seat B.

The contest for the Utah County Commission’s Seat B will be decided in the Republican primary.

Incumbent Commissioner Bill Lee is trying to fend off Spanish Fork City Council member Brandon Gordon in his race for a third term.

Lee said he’s chasing another term because he wants to see through some of the initiatives he’s proud of, like improving mental health care, and to help secure water resources for generations to come.

He plans to keep his commitment to limited government and low taxes so residents can keep more money in their pockets and the county can attract more businesses.

Lee said while Gordon voted to raise taxes multiple times, he was part of the largest property tax rate cut in county history, an attack that Gordon said is all spin.

Gordon said his city has the lowest property tax rate of any municipality in Utah County, but when the city transitioned from a volunteer fire department to a full-time department, he backed incremental increases over a three-year period.

“It was for public safety,” he said.

Gordon, a lifelong resident of Utah County, said he was approached by Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith to run against Lee, adding that he wants to improve the relationship between the sheriff’s office and the commission.

His 11 years of experience on the council in Spanish Fork gives him a leg up in working with other local governments as Utah County grows, he said, touting his ability to build relationships, find common ground and develop solutions.

Davis County Commission Seat A

Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson, left, and Luke Elijah Brooks, candidates for the Republican nomination for Davis County Commission Seat A.

Both Davis County Commission seats on the ballot this year will be decided by GOP primary voters unless a write-in candidate emerges at least 65 days before the general election.

In the race for Seat A, Commissioner Bob Stevenson said he wants to take the knowledge he’s gained over the past three years on the three-member commission and apply it to another term.

To combat the ripple effects from inflation, he said, the county should be as conservative as possible in its spending.

“So that as we go through this inflationary, recessionary cycle that we’re going to go through,” he said, “the bottom line is, we go into it very strong and when we’re through with it, we come out very strong, and there’s no tax increases during that period.”

He said Davis County needs to create jobs and lure businesses so the economy can continue expanding.

Stevenson, Layton’s former mayor, touted his lifelong residency of Davis County and decades of experience in the private sector as what sets him apart from his challenger, Luke Elijah Brooks. Stevenson ran for Congress in 2020 but fell short in the primary.

Brooks, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps., moved to Utah from Detroit for a fresh start about two years ago and quickly became frustrated with leadership at the local level.

“Like so many people,” he said, “(I) just decided to step out of my comfort zone and try to take part and do something more.”

If elected, Brooks, a Bountiful resident who works as a program manager for Northrop Grumman, said he would want to get a better sense of what municipalities across the county need.

“At times,” he said, “the south end of the county is neglected.”

Asked what sets him apart from Stevenson, Brooks said he is more conservative. If nothing else, Brooks said, he’s giving voters an option to have a Republican other than Stevenson on the commission.

Davis County Commission Seat B

Davis County Commissioner Lorene Miner Kamalu, left, and Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd, candidates for the Republican nomination for Davis County Commission Seat B.

Lorene Miner Kamalu, meanwhile, is seeking to retain the seat she won in 2018.

“I love the work of being a county commissioner,” she said. “It’s as challenging and meaningful as I thought it would be, and there’s more to do.”

She said she’s proud of her efforts on a criminal justice coordinating council, improving transparency by streaming and recording public meetings, working on a monthly digital newsletter and maintaining a budget that keeps down the tax burden on residents.

If voters hire her to another term, she wants to focus on emergency preparedness, workforce development and responding to Utah’s drought.

Kamalu said her experience as a commissioner sets her apart from her challenger, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd.

She said she is a known leader who already has positive relationships, a private-sector background, an education in public administration, and experience as a former planning commissioner.

Shepherd said he was asked by several people to run, and the timing was right for seeking a commission seat.

“I’ve got a lot to offer to the county,” he said. “I really think we need a commissioner that understands things from a local level and understands how the decisions that are made at a county level directly affect cities and the residents that live here.”

If elected, he said he wants to improve transparency and fiscal responsibility. Shepherd said he believes in starting the budget from scratch every year and called for a total review of county finances to determine what the county should be involved in.

Shepherd, a real estate broker, spent nine years on Clearfield’s planning commission, six years on its City Council and nine years as mayor.

“I know this county,” he said, “inside and out.”