2 challenging GOP incumbent

Apr 11 2012 - 11:38pm



FARMINGTON -- Two Republican challengers have a laundry list of political issues they are raising in their run against first-term Davis County Commissioner John Petroff Jr.

But Petroff is proud of his four-year record, which he says includes no tax increases and keeping in check the growth of county government.

The trio seeking the office of county commissioner are squaring off over such issues as economic development, transportation and leadership, as they approach the 7 p.m. Friday Davis GOP convention at Woods Cross High School.

Petroff, 66, is facing fellow Republicans Terry R. Spencer, a former state senator who lives in Syracuse, and Mark D. Jacobs, a former college teacher who lives in Bountiful.

The convention will determine whether a June 26 primary is needed, and if so, which two commission candidates will advance to the primary.

The primary for the commission race will be avoided if any candidate seeking the four-year seat garners 60 percent or more of the convention vote.

In the meantime, the political finger-pointing has begun.

Spencer, 51, in addition to challenging Petroff's $119,518.61 annual salary, said he has outlined a plan for his first 90 days in office, should he win. The outline includes meeting with every elected official in the county to compile a list of public services to be provided by county government.

Implementation would require determining which level of government can efficiently provide the service; determining which level of government will be the most responsive to the changing needs of county residents; and ensuring there is a high correlation between the residents receiving the services and the residents paying for them, Spencer said.

Spencer said he also is concerned with a "creeping," growing government.

But while Spencer takes aim at a growing government and the need to better prioritize when allocating public funds, Jacobs, 50, is taking the commission to task over fiscal responsibility and interfering with free market principles.

"The best thing governments can do to improve the economy is to get out of it. The objective should be to keep a level playing field -- not protect special interests like most ordinances and laws do. The free market is the best manager and catalyst for economic improvement," Jacobs said.

"There is always room for improvement -- even in city and county governments. Scrutinizing and managing tax rates do not truly reflect vigilance and fiscal integrity," said Jacobs, the operator of a construction company.

Petroff said some of the more important issues facing the county include the need to continue to drive economic development, fulfill transportation needs, control the growth of government and be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer's money. That includes maintaining the county's AAA bond rating to save interest costs should the county need to bond for infrastructure, he said.

"We are very frugal in what we do. You don't see us in the newspaper for screw-ups," Petroff said.

But Jacobs contends the county needs proactive leadership.

"Commissioner positions tend to be filled by people who are passive and settled in their government jobs," he said.

Davis officials must also work with their respective legislators with a "single voice" to move county transportation projects to the top of the state's funding list in a "squeaky wheel gets the grease"-type fashion, Spencer said.

Regarding Spencer's claim that the commission needs to work with Davis lawmakers to provide a united voice in capturing transportation dollars, Petroff said county leaders already regularly meet with lawmakers, who have been successful in getting the county its proportionate share of transportation funds. The $600 million Legacy Parkway is evidence of that, he said.

"We're there representing this county all the time," Petroff said. "If we go down there and not work as a team, we're going to get nothing. I don't think transportation is where we want to have a squeaky wheel."

Jacobs' call for more proactive leadership is more difficult to address, Petroff said. He agrees with Jacobs that they need to be more proactive when it comes to leadership, and he believes they have been with such projects as Falcon Hill, a private/public partnership with Hill Air Force Base, and East Gate in Layton.

Petroff asked:

"Do you think we're sitting back and waiting for something to happen?"

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