Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge is stepping down, the first-term Republican informed his colleagues in a letter Wednesday.
Ainge is out of town for six weeks, through May 14, for Utah National Guard Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer training in Charlottesville, Va., and had intended to carry out his duties remotely until his return, he said in the letter. However, because he had not filed a notice required by state law, a temporary vacancy already exists.
Ainge said he decided to step out of the way rather than sit back while a temporary replacement — picked in a special election among county Republicans — took over his commission duties for a few weeks, until Ainge’s return.
Ainge said he and his wife, Heidi, already had decided that he would not seek a second four-year term in the 2022 election.
“It has been a great privilege to serve on the Board of Commissioners,” Ainge said in the resignation letter. “Our communities’ strong values and families, our vibrant economy and beautiful outdoors will make Utah County a source of strength in our state and nation for decades to come.”
He referred to Utah County as “the Heart of Utah.”
Ainge also was appointed to a board seat of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development by Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday morning. That four-year part-time appointment is subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate.
The 37-year-old Ainge was elected to the Utah County Commission in November 2018. Prior to that, he jumped into the special congressional election to replace U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who unexpectedly resigned in 2017. Ainge gathered signatures to reach the primary ballot where he faced off against then-Provo Mayor John Curtis and former state Rep. Chris Herrod. Ainge finished in third place with 24% of the vote.
Ainge gained national attention last year when he clashed with fellow commissioner, Bill Lee, over a potential mask mandate. More than 150 angry protesters showed up at the meeting. Ainge motioned to adjourn the meeting before it began because there were too many unmasked people in the meeting room.
A Republican critic of former President Donald Trump, Ainge is seen as the most moderate member of the three-person commission with Lee and Tom Sakievich occupying the right wing. Those more conservative politicians now control the agenda and direction of the commission since Sakievich replaced the more moderate Nathan Ivie in January.
Ainge is the son of former NBA and Brigham Young University basketball star Danny Ainge, who currently is the general manager of the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story.