SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater County Commissioners were unable to choose an individual to fill the vacancy in the board after hearing from the three candidates today.
They chose to schedule a special meeting for June 26 at 1:30 pm to try to decide on a candidate. The candidate must be chosen by a majority vote.
The vacancy in the board was left when Commissioner Don Van Matre passed away this May.
The three candidates, Island Richards, Lauren Schoenfeld, and John Kolb, were selected by the Sweetwater County Republican Central Committee on June 10. Today, each candidate had about 30 minutes each to address the commissioners and answer any of the board’s questions.
After hearing from each candidate, the support from the commissioners was split between Richards and Schoenfeld.
At this time, Chairman Wally Johnson and Commissioner Roy Lloyd support Richards, while Commissioners Randy Wendling and Jeff Smith support Schoenfeld.
Johnson said he believes waiting to make a decision until June 26 will allow the public to express their beliefs, and it may help the commissioners make their decision and possibly change one of their minds.
The Discussion of the Candidates
Johnson said he knows all three candidates well, and thinks highly of them all, however, he felt Richards has the experience, fiscal responsibility, and conservativeness that is needed in Sweetwater County at this time. He said the Republican party chose Richards above the other candidates, and he has to acknowledge that.
“They represent every republican in the Sweetwater County,” Johnson said about the Republican Central Committee and their support for Richards. “I can’t ignore that. I strongly, strongly support Island.”
Wendling said that though he believes both Kolb and Richards would be capable of the job, he thinks Schoenfeld has the diversity needed for the position. He said she has experience in economic development, which is crucial to the county, and experience on many different boards that will make her an asset to the county.
Smith also spoke out in favor of Schoenfeld, saying she stuck out to him during the Central Committee’s process, and continues to stand out above the other two candidates. Smith also said that Schoenfeld brings a different perspective to the board.
“There are four white men filling these roles,” he said of the county commission, adding that they are not fully representative of the community. “Unwavering, I’ll stick with Lauren.”
Commissioner Lloyd went into the meeting leaning towards Schoenfeld, however, after listening to the candidates, he decided that Richards would be better fit to fill the vacancy. Lloyd said that Schoenfeld has a similar background to himself and Commissioner Smith, as she has never been involved in politics before. Therefore, he believes bringing her onto the board may give them less diversity in voices and opinions.
Lloyd believes that with Richards background with the Republican Central Committe, which he has been the chairman of in the past, he has the background to fill the position, and would bring a different voice to the board.
“We do miss a more conservative voice in Sweetwater County,” Lloyd said.
After some debate, the commissioners stayed firm in their support. After consulting with John DeLeon, Deputy County Attorney, they decided that taking some time to think would be best before making a decision. Johnson also emphasized the importance of the public getting to talk to the commissioners about the decision, as well as see where the commissioners stand at this point in time.
The commissioners voted unanimously to come back to the matter at a special meeting on June 26 at 1:30 pm.
If the commissioners fail to select a candidate at that time, the matter will go to District Court, where one of the Sweetwater County District Court judges will make the decision.