Mr. M. Lynn Lemon - B.S., Business Administration, 1976
Having been Cache County Executive for more than 20 years, and working for the county as an assistant county executive for six years before that, Lynn Lemon has decided to hang up his hat after this term and won’t run for reelection. Born in the little community of Ioka in the Uintah Basin, Lemon graduated from Utah State University, where he met his wife, a Cache Valley native. Lemon worked in Colorado, Washington and Pennsylvania, returning to his home state after his mother-in-law set up some job interviews in Cache Valley, including one for the county executive’s administrative assistant. Though the position was for less money than he was making in Pennsylvania, Lemon and his wife made the decision to move back to Utah with their children. Lemon said he doesn’t know what he will do after leaving office, but spending more time with family and continuing to contribute to the community, whether as an employee or volunteer, are the things he’s looking forward to. The Herald Journal sat down with Lemon to talk about his time as county executive. Q: How did you get involved in working with Cache County? A: I came in June of 1988, which was a year and a half after our form of government started. Cache County was the first county in the state of Utah to go to a county executive/ county council form of government. I wasn’t here at the very beginning of that, but I’ve really been here through most of that. I started as the administrative assistant to Bruce King, who was the first county executive. In 1990, Seth Allen ran against Bruce for the position of county executive, and Seth won in that election. I still remember Seth came into my office after he was sworn in as the new county executive and he said, “OK, you’re fired.” Then he said, “Now you’re rehired. I just wanted you to understand that you work for me. You don’t work for Bruce.” At the beginning of 1994, he came to me and said, “You really need to run for county executive. You know more about this than anybody else does.” And I told him I didn’t want anything to do with being an elected official. I remember the day it opened up for filing. Seth came back that morning and said, “I just paid your filing fee, now you better get out there and get to work.” For a minute I was thinking, “Are you serious? Am I really going to do this?” But I thought if he’s paying my filing fees, I’d better get to work. I was sworn in as the county executive on July 1, 1994, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Q: What are some hard parts about being the county executive? A: One of the things I think is frustrating is you simply can’t solve all the problems. I think that’s the hard part. I’ve thought maybe it is time to let somebody else try to solve some of the problems I haven’t been able to solve. I really have tried hard to help people. I’ve felt strongly about trying to keep the county in a strong financial position. I’ve really wanted us to be financially strong and able to perform the services, but it’s always a balancing act. You have a continual demand for more money, and on the other hand you have the citizens who are saying, “We’re paying way too much. We don’t want to pay any more.” So you’re always trying to balance that. For me, I’ve tried to keep the county in a decent financial position. Q: When did you decide not to run for another term? A: Literally, through the first term, there were days dealing with various issues and challenges and problems where I said, “I don’t know how I ever got into this, but I will never, never do this again.” As you can see, I did do it again. There were some difficult issues that I was dealing with in that first term, but I ran the second time. I had no one run against me, and I think if I had someone run against me I would’ve just said, “OK, you can have it,” because I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to do it. I just can’t believe it’s been five terms since then. The county has been through a lot of things over the last 20 years. Honestly, in 2010, which is the last time I filed for election, I seriously thought maybe I wouldn’t run. I’ve never believed that elected offices were things you were supposed to do your entire life, especially the county executive position. I decided to run again in 2010 and thought, “I’m going to do it one last time.” Really, from that time, in my own mind, I’ve thought I’m not going to run again. I have people telling me to please not retire. I’ve thought, “I’ve done this for 20 and a half years. It’s time for me to move on.” Q: What is one of the hardest things you’ve seen in your 20 years as county executive? A: One of the hardest for me has been trying to deal with the balance between the demands of the citizens and the demands of the employees. Some of the employees think they should be paid a higher wage and make more money. One thing I do say is no one forced anybody to accept any job. I know there’s frustration, and I acknowledge that frustration. Now, we should be fair with our employees. We’ve tried to maintain a good benefits package and do things to keep us competitive. It’s a constant challenge. We just don’t have the funding to pay people as much as they would like to be paid. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anybody — almost anyone isn’t paid as much as they would like. That’s probably the biggest challenge. Q: What are you looking forward to after leaving office? A: I’m looking forward to less stress. I laugh about it, but there are days that are very hard. The problem is that there are situations that are really difficult. I can laugh about it because I’m not in the middle of one right now, but there are situations where it’s almost like you can’t resolve it. I’m not running away from those. I do want to still be involved and still be a contributor to society. I think I’m not going to mind not having situations that I just can’t resolve. I do my very best to help people the best I can, and yet sometimes it’s so hard. I actually like trying to help people, but I won’t miss the things you just simply can’t resolve. Q: What’s one piece of advice you would like to give to your successor? A: It would be to focus on serving people and not on the power of the position.