Grand County Councilmember Terry Morse has announced he will resign from the council after the council’s first meeting in November, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m. in the council chambers, 125 E. Center St.
“Terry has been a real asset to the county and great to work with personally,” said council chair Evan Clapper. “I really appreciate his support as vice-chair. He’s put a lot of time and energy… into a pretty thankless and often frustrating job. He will be greatly missed and leave a big hole for sure.”
Morse said he is stepping down from the council because he and his wife are moving. While they are not leaving the Moab area, the relocation will take them out of District One, making him ineligible to continue serving on the council as the representative of that district.
Morse said the move came about after a “dear friend” decided to sell her home.
“It’s this place where we really wanted to be for a long time and a transaction we just couldn’t say no to, given the circumstances of the whole deal,” he said. “That’s really the driving force behind it.”
“I’ve got mixed feelings about it,” he added. “But it’s the point in my life where I have to take advantage of opportunity when it knocks on my door.”
Morse said he was proud to have served “with a group of people at the county who are so dedicated and knowledgeable” and that he “had the opportunity to learn from them.” He said everything he did on the council was part of a greater, collaborative effort.
“As far as personal impacts on anything, I don’t look at any impact I might have had as my own personal accomplishment,” he said. “Anything I did was with the cooperation and participation of everybody else who put their time into it…I’m just part of the puzzle.”
Morse said he will still be keeping busy even when no longer on the council.
“I’m one of those people who have so much to do, I can’t get it all done in a 24-hour day,” he said.
But, he said, his departure from the council will give his wife and him the chance to visit their children and grandchildren, which they haven’t had the opportunity to do “in way too long.”
Morse said the family is spread out with one child in South America, one in Canada and one in the Pacific Northwest.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the people who supported me and the people on the council and the county who work so hard to keep things moving forward in this lovely area that we’re in,” Morse said. “If it weren’t for all these folks working as hard as they do, we would be in much more dire straits than we are.”
Subhead: INTERIM APPOINTMENT UNCERTAIN DESPITE PRECEDENT
Grand County Clerk / Auditor Chris Baird said that Morse’s resignation has raised a question as to if or how an interim appointment to fill the District One seat should be made. Grand County’s governing body is nonpartisan, and Utah’s state code does not have a process for an unaffiliated candidate to have an interim appointment, Baird said, so he asked the Lieutenant Governor, who told him to consult the Grand County Attorney. Baird said he followed the Lieutenant Governor’s direction and is now waiting to hear back from Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan.
When council members resigned in the past, the county council appointed an interim member whose term lasted until the next election.
In fact, Morse himself was originally appointed to the council in October of 2018 following the resignation of council member Patrick Trim. Morse was running unopposed for the seat at the time. (See “Council swears in new member” in the Oct. 3, 2018 issue of the Moab Sun News.)
Trim had also been appointed by the council in 2017 following the resignation of Baird, who is now the Grand County Clerk / Auditor. At that time, the council interviewed three applicants for the position before selecting Trim. (See “Pat Trim joins county council” in the June 29, 2017 issue of the Moab Sun News.)
However, Baird said, there is now a new county attorney, and she will weigh in on whether the council should follow this precedent or if she recommends a different approach.
Baird said that one thing for certain is that the District One seat will be up in 2020, with the election winner taking office at the start of 2021.
“If a council member vacates a seat, you have to run a special election for that seat,” Baird said. “We will be putting that particular district seat up for election next year…whoever wins the election of that mid-term vacancy will fill out the remaining two years of that term.”
“But the question is, what do we do in the meantime?” Baird said. “It’s all a bit weird at this point while we’re going through this transition.”
Sloan said via email on Oct. 22 that reviewing the matter of the interim replacement is “a priority” for her this week.
“Utah law is not instructive as to the replacement process in Grand County, which is why the issue requires more study,” she said, adding, “In my opinion, appointing an interim replacement is best practice and intended by Utah law. And it is certainly preferable to having a vacancy on the Council for one year.”
County attorney to weigh in on interim appointment
“Terry has been a real asset to the county and great to work with personally.”
– Evan Clapper, county council chair