CACHE COUNTY – Local Republicans picked an outsider to serve as Cache County executive during special election balloting on Saturday.
After three rounds of voting at the Cache County Events Center, Nibley City Manager David Zook emerged as the GOP nominee for that post, besting county council veteran David Erickson by a close margin.
Two candidates from the private sector, transportation executive Ladd Kennington and local businessman Marc Ensign, were eliminated in the first and second rounds of voting respectively.
During introductions prior to the special election, Erickson was endorsed by former county executive Craig Buttars, who resigned that post to become Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food early in January. In discussions between the rounds of voting, Erickson’s candidacy seemed to be most strongly supported by older members of the local GOP and those associated with agricultural interests.
Zook was endorsed by Nibley Mayor Shaun Dustin, who strongly emphasized his administrative experience during nearly a decade of municipal management. Zook’s advocates among the GOP central committee members and precinct delegates also praised his professional demeanor during a Jan. 27 candidate debate hosted by Cache Republicans.
During his remarks Saturday, Zook promised fellow Republicans that, if selected as county executive, he would focus on efficiency, public safety and concerns related to growth.
“I believe government should be run like a business,” he said. “I would lead the county in a way that is efficient, prioritizes customer service and is responsible with the public’s tax dollars.”
Under state law, the local Republican Party was empowered to select a nominee to serve out the approximately two years of Buttar’s unexpired term of office.
Only local Republican leaders were allowed to participate in the special election balloting. Of 521 current members of the central committee of the Cache GOP and precinct delegates, nearly 80 percent were present at the GOP gathering on Saturday
In the first round of balloting, Erickson garnered 39 percent of the 405 votes cast, compared to 37 percent for Zook, 19 percent for Ensign and 4 percent for Kennington.
In the second round, Zook took the lead with nearly 45 percent of the 398 ballots cast, while Erickson garnered about 42 percent and Ensign dropped to 13 percent.
In the final round, Zook edged Erickson by a margin of just 21 votes out of nearly 400 ballots, 52.6 percent to 47.3 percent.
County Republicans will now forward Zook’s name to the Cache County Council for approval, which is slated to take place during a special meeting of that panel at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.