Following the election this year I continued to research county governments because I had some outstanding questions. I found only two counties in Utah (Salt Lake and Utah) where County Commissioners or County Council members have their own personal assistants. Both counties use the same title for these employees – senior policy advisor.
The remaining twenty-seven counties all use a shared support staff model. 16 of the counties have an office of the commission staffed with either county administrator plus assistant(s) or share support staff with other county agencies.
Shared staff models allow institutional knowledge to be retained rather than leave with commission members. Additionally, shared staff are viewed as neutral rather than being simply an extension of an individual commissioner. They can thus serve the commission as a whole and interface with other county departments or agencies without being perceived as representing a single commissioner.
Additionally, because a shared staff model is more efficient it may be possible to replace three senior policy advisors with a two member office of the commission. Senior policy advisors in Utah County make an average of $93.8K per year (salary plus benefits). You could bring an experienced individual to function as a county administrator with an assistant administrator and save the county some money each year. I am assuming the senior resource would require a higher salary than policy advisors.
I shared this information with county commissioners during a work session along with my recommendations for restructuring support staff based on my experience as a city council member and mayor. Below is a summary of what I presented to the commission.
Existing Forms of Support Infrastructure for Utah Counties
Given that we are losing a commissioner and senior policy advisor in January I strongly recommend that the commission consider changing to a more effective, cost efficient and less divisive form of support before a new commissioner starts and brings with him a new senior policy advisor. Choosing between the two options in my view is entirely dependent on how much and what type of work the commission would like to delegate. Either form in my view is significantly better than the status quo.
If you want to let the commissioners know that you support a change here are there emails:
- Bill Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tanner Ainge: email@example.com
- Nathan Ivie: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Commissioner elect Tom Sakievich: email@example.com
- On the heels of Prop. 9 failure, Utah County Commission considering staffing structure changes, Daily Herald, Dec 4, 2020
- Google spreadsheet contains source data for the charts in this post and details about each county’s elected officials and staff. The details can be confusing if you have any questions just contact me.
- Utah Public Notice website (agendas and minutes for all public agencies).
- Utah State Transparency website (I used the Detailed Search – Employee Pay and Transaction Details subsites).
- Utah Taxpayers Association Cost of County data.