CEDAR CITY – Two Iron County commissioners and a new county auditor were sworn in Tuesday at the Parowan Courthouse.
Mike Bleak was sworn in for the first time, while Alma Adams was sworn in for his third elected term to office.
Adams was initially appointed in 2006 to fill the last two years of then-Commissioner Dennis Stowell’s term.
Bleak is filling the remaining two years left behind by former Commissioner Dave Miller, who resigned last March. He follows interim Commissioner Casey Anderson who was elected by the Iron County Republican Central Committee last April to fill Miller’s seat prior to the election of a new commissioner.
Bleak, Adams and Dale Brinkerhoff make up the Iron County Commission team.
Judge Brent Dunlap administered the oath of office to the two commissioners and to Dan Jessen who was sworn in as the county’s new auditor.
Like Anderson, Jessen was elected by the Iron County Republican Central Committee in October. He will fill the last two years of Gene Adams’ four-year term. Adams, who served the county for 10 years, retired Jan. 1, two years after he was reelected to the county auditor post.
Bleak has endured some public criticism for taking on the position as commissioner while employed full-time as a detective with the Cedar City Police Department. As promised in his campaign, however, Bleak plans to commit to his new role by moving into the position of public affairs corporal starting Feb. 18.
Between now and then, Bleak said he is going to work to reduce the caseload for the incoming detective.
“I won’t be taking any new cases and I’m going to work to clear up all the critical stuff so I don’t overburden him too much when he starts,” he said.
The new commissioner said he plans to focus his first few weeks on getting to know the various county departments and employees.
“I need to get my feet wet and figure out exactly what the issues are,” Bleak said. “I have a pretty good grasp on the issues that we’re facing, but it’ll take me a while to feel my way and figure out what my responsibilities are and go from there.”
The commissioners change department assignments and rotate the chair position at the beginning of each year. Bleak is likely to fill some of Anderson’s same assignments which includes the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.
Wild horses are going to be one of the top issues on the commissioner’s agenda in 2017, Adams said.
While the issue has taken somewhat of a back seat these last two years under the Obama administration, Adams said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has a bill all ready to push through Congress. Under Stewart’s proposed legislation, the Bureau of Land Management would lose control of managing the horses once they are turned over to the states.
“He’s got the bill ready, he’s just waiting for the right time because it doesn’t make any sense to run a bill and then get it hammered,” Adams said. “You want to have the good climate because if you try to run two or three times then it loses its power.”
As always, the issue of public lands is a major concern for the commission.
“BLM is trying to push through a thing before Obama’s out to tie up 10 million acres of sagebrush land located in the west, habitat for the sage grouse,” Adams said. “They would lock out all mining and drilling of oil and gas, anything that disturbs the land. So, that’s something that is going to have to be overturned. That’s probably the number one thing that has to overturned once Trump gets in office. It’s egregious.”
Adams and the other commissioners are hoping some long awaited changes are on the horizon with a Republican-controlled Congress and the incoming Trump administration.
Getting the county’s debt service to a zero balance is another priority for Adams as he enters his 10th year on the commission.
Adams, Brinkerhoff and Anderson unanimously voted last year to pay off six buildings, saving the county an annual payment of approximately $500,000. Adams said he would like to see this trend continue, beginning with paying off the courthouse remodel.
“We’re extremely careful and conservative in how we expend county funds. We recognize it’s not our money so we are very, very frugal,” Adams said.
As for the auditor’s office, Jessen has a big job ahead of him as he moves the county’s financial system from traditional files and paperwork to a more digital format.
“There’s a lot to do,” Jessen said. “I need to get things more efficient so I have time to dedicate to other things that need to be done.”
Jessen has several goals he would like to see to fruition in the next two years including regular departmental audits that are required under state statute and haven’t been done for at least the last 10 years.
He also plans to address an ongoing issue with Cedar and Parowan cities and the library that has been at a standstill for six months to a year.
Transparency is also something that is one of Jessen’s priorities. He said he plans to try and make the county’s financial information easily accessible, adding that he will also be more available to the public and the press.
But before making any major decisions, Jessen said he plans to spend his first year making sure “the job is done,” and they “don’t drop any balls.”
“I want to make sure I fully understand the reasoning behind how everything is done and then if we need to change things then we’ll do that,” Jessen said. “I’m excited.”
The commission meets every other Monday at 9 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled Jan. 9 at the Iron County Commission Chambers located at 69 S. 100 E. in Parowan. All subsequent meetings pending the courthouse remodel are slated to be held at the Parowan City Offices on 35 E. 100 North.
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