County executive candidates trade views in civil debate

Candidates for county executive met in a virtual debate Wednesday hosted by the Cache County GOP. They are (from upper left) David Zook, David Erickson, Ladd Kennington and Marc Ensign.

CACHE COUNTY – A virtual candidate debate hosted Wednesday by the Cache County GOP revealed differing views of the role of the Cache County Executive.

“What would I do on my second day as Cache County executive?” candidate Ladd Kennington responded in answer to a question toward the end of the Facebook event. “I would just start the day by meeting the people. By that, I mean the department heads, their employees and other people. Absolutely, meeting the people.”

But rival candidate David Zook countered that he wouldn’t spend his second day as county executive in Cache Valley.

“As Mark Twain once said: ‘No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while a legislature is in session’,” Zook observed. “But our Legislature is now in session. That’s where I want to be on day two and for several other days during this legislative session.

“We need to be watching what (our lawmakers) are doing, keeping tabs on them and advocating for our needs here in Cache County.”

“For me,” said candidate Marc Ensign. “Day two will just be a continuation of day one. If I’m elected, I’ll be coming to work with the intent to work hard from the very beginning.”

The 90-minute question-and-answer session was directed primarily to members of the Cache County Republic Central Committee, who will be selecting their party’s nominee to replace former county executive Craig Buttars during a special election on Saturday.

In general, the four candidates’ responses tended to reflect their backgrounds and experience.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Ensign is a local businessman and a resident of Paradise. He has previously run to represent the southern portion of Cache Valley on the county council.

Kennington is a transportation executive who hails from Providence. He is a graduate of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and has been involved in GOP activity at county and state levels.

Zook is a Logan resident and a graduate of Southern Utah University. He is currently Nibley City Manager and has served on the central committees of both the Utah Republican Party and the Cache County Republican Party.

The final candidate is Cache Valley native and Smithfield resident David Erickson. He is an appraiser for a local agricultural lending bank and currently serves as a member of the Cache County Council.

Although the GOP event was billed as a debate, it was smoothly moderated to avoid any interaction between the candidates themselves. Instead, questions were politely delivered by County GOP chair Chris Booth and guest Danny Beus, chair of the Cache Democrats.

The closest thing to fireworks during the debate came when Erickson bristled when asked how Republican principles would influence how he would govern as county executive.

“When you say ‘govern,’ that word irritates me,” Erickson confessed. “As far as the principles of the Republican party go, that’s not going to mean any change for me. I’ve been following those in everything that we’ve been doing on the county council for years.

“But, if selected as county executive,” he added, “I will not ‘govern.’ What’s important in this position is side-by-side leadership, where you’re a partner with the members of the county council and the people in handling county business.”

Kennington was equally receptive to the idea of Republican principles guiding his decisions as county executive.

“GOP principles are what (have) made Cache County successful throughout its history and Utah successful throughout its history,” he argued. “Republican principles could also make our whole country successful, if we would all just live up to them.”

Zook, meanwhile, pledged to take that loyalty litmus test one step further.

“If the voters see fit to make me their next county executive,” he explained, “I’ll take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Utah. That will be something that I take very seriously.”

That special election will take place during a GOP County Central Committee meeting at the Cache County Event Center, with usual coronavirus precautions in effect.

Although that gathering is a public meeting, Booth is urging only voting members of the central committee and county delegates attend due to the coronavirus.

“We will be streaming the meeting live on our Facebook page for the general public,” Booth emphasized.

Under state law, local GOP leaders will select a nominee to serve out the remainder of Buttars’ unexpired term as county executive and forward that name to the Cache County Council for approval.

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