Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson to step down to take DNR post

Tuesday , December 12, 2017 - 9:09 AM4 comments

CASIE FORBES and TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner staff

Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson will step down to take a deputy director’s post with the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

He said Tuesday he had accepted a deputy director position with the DNR and his resignation from the county seat becomes effective Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. That will leave about a year in his term, and at least two people — Hooper City Councilwoman Lori Brinkerhoff and Utah Rep. Justin Fawson — are interested in taking over the county seat.

“As a fifth-generation dairy farmer and lifelong resident of Weber County, I feel blessed and honored by the opportunity I’ve had to serve as a Weber County commissioner for the past seven years,” Gibson, finishing his second term, said in a statement. “I have always felt many of the most significant political decisions happen at the local level, and as I reflect on my time with the commission, I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished together.”

RELATED: Weber County leaders seek study into changing county government style 

Mike Styler, executive director of the natural resources department, named Gibson the new deputy director, one of two deputy director posts.

“With Utah’s population continuing to grow, DNR is aggressively working to identify today’s opportunities and find solutions to tomorrow’s challenges,” Styler said in a press release. “Kerry’s background as a farmer, state legislator and most recently county commissioner will make him a valuable asset to DNR as we transition into this new phase. Kerry has always been a fierce advocate for natural resources and we are pleased he has accepted this assignment.”

Gibson, a Republican who previously served in the Utah House, said it has “been a privilege” to work alongside Weber County residents and staff members. He also discussed his plans at a Weber County Commission meeting Tuesday, generating a standing ovation from the 25 or so people in the audience and drawing a hug from fellow commissioner James Ebert.

RELATED: Weber County's voice on Great Salt Lake Advisory Council a no-show at meetings

“We have made unbelievable strides in economic development by upgrading infrastructure and creating an environment where businesses can grow and create more jobs,” Gibson wrote in his statement, sent out by Weber County’s Salt Lake City-based public relations company. “We have collaborated with every mayor and city council to address individual community needs and help make Weber County the best place to live, work and play. Most importantly, we have held the commission to a standard of integrity by opposing unnecessary spending and taxes, demanding transparency and never settling for the status quo.”

Weber County Republican Party Central Committee and Executive Committee members — numbering over 300 — will pick a replacement to fill out Gibson’s term, said Lynda Pipken, the party chairwoman. She’s eyeing Jan. 11 as a potential meeting date to make the selection so the replacement can start as soon as possible after GIbson’s departure, but details need to be ironed out.

Meantime, those interested in vying to fill out Gibson’s term may email their names to the party secretary, Lindsey Ohlin, at wcrgopsec@gmail.com. Candidates must be registered Republicans.

Gibson’s commission seat comes up for election next year, with its own deadlines for those interested in running for a full four-year term, separate from the process to pick a replacement to fill the unfinished portion of the current term.

FAWSON, BRINKERHOFF

Fawson, appointed to the state legislature in 2014 and elected later that year and again in 2016, released a statement Tuesday about his interest in Gibson’s post, soon after the county commissioner released his statement. He cited his business and legislative background and touted a focus on economic development and keeping taxes in check.

“Like many residents, I’m frustrated by tax increases from just about every entity that could increase taxes,” he said. Weber County doesn’t seem to have a tax revenue problem, he continued, rather, “there’s more of a tax spending problem.”

Fawson also backs the push to create a body to study the possibility of changing Weber County’s form of government, a notion that’s received increased support and discussion of late.

RELATED: Weber County residents launch competing push to change county government style

If selected to the county post, Fawson would step down from his Utah House seat, and he’s received queries from some who would be potentially interested in filling out the state post. “Unofficially, I’ve been contacted by several people just today,” he said.

Brinkerhoff, finishing her first term on the Hooper City Council, said she had already been planning to run for the county commission, even had Gibson remained. His announcement Tuesday “somewhat surprised” her.

Her big focus as county commissioner would be economic development and creating jobs. “Weber County is a great place to live, but we need to continue to make it a great place to work,” she said.

She maintains that women and minorities are not being sufficiently represented, which factors in her interest, and also expressed concern about “negative” dealings involving Weber County government. She pointed to heated debates in years past, related to the 2013 Weber County Library System bond proposal, ultimately approved by voters, and former County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister, denied the chance to run for a third term in 2014 by county GOPers.

“There’s just been some contentious dialogue,” Brinkerhoff said.

 

NOT SEEKING A CHANGE

Gibson said he didn’t search out the DNR post. He served in the Utah House at the same time as Styler, also a former state representative, and was approched by the DNR head. “I was not looking for a change,” Gibson said.

He is “particularly passionate” about decisions that would impact natural resources and agriculture in Utah, Gibson said, and will likely share oversight of the seven DNR divisions with the other deputy director.

“I believe my background and experience can help DNR and the state address some of Utah’s critical natural resource needs,” Gibson wrote. “As deputy director, I will work closely with members of DNR’s executive team, division leadership, state legislators and key stakeholders.”

RELATED: Weber County spends $456K on public relations, economic development contracts

The Utah Department of Natural Resources includes seven divisions: state parks and recreation; oil, gas and mining; forestry, fire and state lands; water resources; water rights; wildlife resources; and the Utah Geological Survey.

“By working together, we’ll find solutions that protect our natural resources and maintain our quality of life,” Gibson wrote. “To me, this assignment is an opportunity to protect our way of life for the coming generations.”

He was elected a member of the Utah State House of Representatives in 2004 and represented District 6 in Weber County until 2010. As a state representative, Gibson chaired the Natural Resources Appropriations Committee.

Contact audience engagement reporter Casie Forbes at 801-625-4227. Follow her on Twitter, @CasieAForbes, and on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/CasieAForbes. 

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