Utah’s primary election is less than two weeks away, with registered voters in the state choosing who will represent their party in the race for governor, attorney general, the U.S. House of Representatives, and in Box Elder County, a seat on the county commission.
Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many Utahns are voting, it has also forced those running for elected office to alter the way they campaign.
The telltale campaign signs can be seen along roads and in yards as usual, but the candidates haven’t been able to get as much face time with voters as they would like due to coronavirus-related precautions.
While many voters have already filled out and sent their mail-in ballots, the four Republican candidates vying for Box Elder County Commission Seat C are still working to garner support in the final days leading up to the June 30 primary. The Leader spoke with all four candidates last week as they make their cases for why they are the best choice to fill the role. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Alden Farr believes his two terms serving on the Brigham City Council, as well as his experience working in the electric utility and financial industries, would serve him well as a member of the Box Elder County Commission.
A native of Weber County, Farr has lived with his wife Cheryl for nearly three decades in Box Elder County, raising four children. After attending Weber State College and graduating from the University of Utah, he spent 16 years working in customer service and energy conservation for Utah Power & Light and Brigham City Corp.
Farr switched careers and became a financial advisor 22 years ago, starting out with Edward Jones before moving to Raymond James, where he has spent the last 17 years.
Farr served on the Brigham City Council from 2004 to 2008, and is now serving his second term on the council. He said he originally had no intention of running for the commission seat, but decided to get into the race after hearing talk about making commission seats full-time positions, which he said he opposes.
“The explanations didn’t resonate with me,” he said. “I didn’t feel there was a need to make it a full-time position.”
One of Farr’s key campaign promises is to increase transparency and improve communication between the commission and various county departments, which he said have been lacking in recent years. He would like to see the commission hold more regular meetings with other local elected officials and county department heads to discuss current issues.
“It seems like there’s not a lot of communication in the county government that could get everybody more involved, on the same page, working for the common good,” he said.
Farr believes his budgeting and policymaking experience as a city councilmember would be useful in looking at ways to make better use of the county budget. For example, he would like to re-examine plans to build a $1 million facility at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds in Tremonton to house the Bookmobile program, which has seen a decline in use in recent years.
“I’m not opposed to the Bookmobile,” he said, “but if usage is down 43 percent, is that a service that’s still needed in today’s age of technology?”
By his own admission, Farr isn’t intimately familiar with the northern and western parts of the county, but said he has been working to change that.
“I have no experience with county fairs and agriculture, but my goal would be to put together committees, if you will, to provide oversight and recommendations so commissioners would be better informed to make decisions,” he said.
As the incumbent in the race, Stan Summers is defending his seat against three challengers in his bid for a third term in office, which he says would be his last.
With nearly eight years of service on the commission, Summers said his record speaks for itself.
“The county is out of debt and our funds are flush,” he said. “I honestly think we’re in a better position than the state and most counties. We haven’t raised taxes. People are saying we need to look at our budget, but an independent auditor said we’re the best-managed county he’s seen.”
For those who might be wary of awarding him a third term, “I think I’ve got a lot done, and I’ve still got some more to do,” he said. “I don’t think you kick someone out because of longevity if they’re still producing.”
Summers said he has a long track record of producing for the county. Shortly after he was first elected to the commission, he said he discovered that the county was still giving a percentage of its road tax revenues to counties in the Wasatch Front, a remnant of development related to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and was instrumental in getting that money back for the county.
He also points to his role in securing corridor preservation funding, which has helped with road projects from Willard to Portage and numerous points between.
Another project he has been involved in include the redevelopment of the old race track in Brigham City into a hotel and truck stop. He said that property now generates some $250,000 annually in property taxes to the county and has created 50 to 75 jobs.
Summers was also heavily involved in the sale of the former La-Z-Boy manufacturing plant in Tremonton, which now has three tenants and is fully occupied except for some office space.
He’s also been involved in helping Box Elder County get off the Environmental Protection Agency’s non-attainment list for air quality, which he said will potentially save millions of dollars and remove onerous restrictions that have hampered economic growth.
He said the connections he has developed over the years would help him bring more benefits to the county. If elected, he will become president of the Utah Association of Counties next year. Being in that position, along with others, means the county will have the ear of the state, and even the White House, on issues that affect its well being.
“I’m on 22 different boards at the county, state and federal level,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had inroads as much as we have now. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Kris Udy represents the fifth generation of her family to live and work in the Bear River Valley. She traces her roots to Abraham Hunsaker, a Mormon pioneer who settled in Honeyville and built the first flour mill there.
Udy and her husband Boyd split their time between the family ranch in Promontory and a house in Tremonton, where Kris has worked as a mortgage loan officer for the past 20 years.
Udy ran for a spot in the Utah Legislature two years ago, a seat that was ultimately won by Corinne farmer Joel Ferry. Still feeling a desire for public service, she decided to get into the race for Box Elder County Commissioner.
“I love this community,” she said. “I want to serve and do good things for it.”
Udy describes herself as “very conservative, and concerned about our budgets and how we’re spending our money.”
She said the county has raised its budget significantly every year for several years running now, “and I have a problem with that.
“The county commission should be the fiduciary of those tax dollars,” she said. “We need to be cautious and careful about how we spend that money. Spending, including personal spending in the commission — we need to get control of that.”
Udy won the largest number of delegate votes at the county convention in April, and is hoping to ride that momentum into elected office. She said she will bring a “fresh perspective” to the job, and wouldn’t stay in the seat for more than two terms.
“We don’t need career politicians,” she said. “I’m a term limits kind of girl. You get in there too long, you get entrenched and forget what you’re there for.”
Like Farr, Udy said the county needs to have better communication between the various departments so it can operate more efficiently.
If elected, one of her main goals would be to help update the county’s master development plan, with more input from local communities.
“What do our communities want? Some want growth and some don’t,” she said. “How do we help them succeed in their goals? The first thing to do is communicate. We need to be sitting at the table and discussing everybody’s needs.”
Another key to her campaign is to remove government regulations that she says are hampering the ability of the private sector to flourish.
“Small business is what keeps us afloat,” she said. “We’ve got to get the government out of the way so that entrepreneurship can happen.”
Her main goal, she said, is to get citizens more involved in the process of determining what the county’s future will look like.
“What we don’t want to do is have government be the answer,” she said. “We’re here to help, not to be the answer.”
Mitch Zundel has plenty of experience working for the county and in city planning, and is hoping that experience will propel him to a seat on the county commission.
Born and raised in Willard, Zundel is married with three children, the oldest of whom just graduated from high school. He was chosen to serve on the Willard City Council, a position he held for six years, after working as the city zoning administrator and planner.
He worked as a realtor until the housing crisis of the late 2000s hit, then went to work as a supply manager for Flying J Inc. until that company declared bankruptcy. After that, he went to work starting the Entrepreneur Launch Pad in Brigham City and the Box Elder Economic Development Alliance.
More recently, Zundel has spent the last eight years as the county’s economic development director, working to bring new business into the county. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, and said he could leverage that experience to help the Box Elder County economy moving forward.
“I just felt the need to run,” he said of his decision earlier this year to join the fray. “I feel like my background in economic development has helped me understand why the economy is what it is and how it evolves.”
Like Summers, Zundel touts the need for a diversified economy, with jobs available at all skill and education levels to keep things moving along.
“We need to create more jobs. Even if some of them are unskilled jobs, there’s still a need out there,” he said. “We also need more higher-quality jobs, so when people move away to go to college, the can move back if they want to.”
He said the current county commission has done “great” and “their hearts are in the right place,” but echoed the sentiment of the other two challengers that it’s time for a change in the makeup of the commission.
“I just think we need a new option, and I’m hopeful to be that option,” he said. “We’ll see if I can add my own experience and keep things moving in the right direction.”
Zundel also touted the need for increased communication and collaboration among all stakeholders.
“We just don’t have enough meetings to discuss all the issues the commission is working on,” he said.
Through his work in economic development, Zundel said he has developed a strong network of connections with the state legislature and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which he could leverage into more jobs and growth for the county — with input from everyone who has a stake in it.
“I don’t think the solution should be decided by one to three people,” he said. “We need to rally everyone together.”