Growing mistrust between competing entities, contentious interactions in public meetings, and, apparently, an almost complete lack of communication between these entities outside of the public meetings has dominated San Juan County government since the new county commission was seated in January.
David Everitt, the new interim administrator for San Juan County, will tackle these significant issues.
According to Everitt, his first few days on the job were quiet and efficient, in marked contrast to the contentious process that secured his new employment contract.
“I have had good meetings with staff and other elected officials,” said Everitt. “People have been friendly and welcoming. I certainly didn’t feel the friction from the other contexts.”
Everitt said he has been working to understand the county budgets and plans. The top task, however, is to increase communication between the various groups.
“My style is I want to empower others to do their work,” said Everitt. “I have an open door policy and am primarily a trust-first guy.”
Everitt was extended a contract at the Commission meeting on May 7, despite the fact that the contract was not on the agenda as an action item. A large group of vocal county residents voiced opposition to the action.
During the work session, Commissioner Willie Grayeyes asked to address the issue as an action item.
“What I am trying to do is to move this to an action item for today,” said Grayeyes. “On an interim basis, there should be no question about it.”
After a county resident stated that state law doesn’t allow such an action, Grayeyes responded, “The law can be contested.”
The action was eventually approved by a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Bruce Adams opposing. A number of legal challenges to the decision are in process.
The permanent position is currently being advertised, with a preliminary closing date for applications of May 17.
Everitt told Commissioners that he would serve on an interim basis, but added, “I have no intention of applying for this position in the long run. This is a short-term deal from my perspective no matter what – a few months at the most.”
He temporarily replaces Kelly Pehrson, the longtime administrator who resigned in April to take a position as Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Everitt comes to San Juan County after serving for the past two-and-half years as Moab City Manager. He also came to Moab on an interim basis, but eventually accepted two one-year contacts.
Moab City was in turmoil when Everitt arrived. The previous city manager had been fired and initiated a wrongful action lawsuit that was only settled in recent weeks. In addition, the Moab Police Department was in turmoil.
Everitt said that “restoring trust and confidence among the staff” was a key accomplishment in Moab.
Mike Duncan, a member of the Moab City Council, told Commissioners at the May 7 meeting, “David Everitt is universally regarded as a breath of fresh air. He will be a great asset to San Juan County.”
In March, Everitt notified the Moab City Council that he did not intend to extend his contract beyond August.
Moab City recently extended a contract to Joel Linares, the previous assistant city manager.
With Everitt coming to San Juan County, Linares will take over now instead of in August.
Before then, Everitt served for eight years in Salt Lake City government, including positions as chief operating officer and chief of staff for Mayor Ralph Becker.
In Salt Lake City, Everitt said he was responsible for day-to-day executive responsibilities for Utah’s largest city, which has 3,000 employees and a budget exceeding $750 million.
Everitt said that he looks forward to returning to the Wasatch Front by August. He said that he basically commuted to Moab from Salt Lake City for the past two-and-a-half years.
Everitt’s wife works at the University of Utah. He has not announced what he intends to do after he leaves southeast Utah, other than return to the Wasatch Front.
Everitt received a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from the University of Washington.
He lived in Moab for several years where he worked for a variety of organizations, including the Canyonlands Field Institute and the Youth Garden Project.
He moved to Salt Lake City in 2005, and eventually received a law degree from the University of Utah in 2011.