Transition at the Governor’s office
You have to look back to December 2004 to remember a gubernatorial transition like the one we are experiencing now. There is an excitement throughout Utah about what a new, young Governor will do for our state in coming years and how his rural roots might shape his administration.
Given the abrupt nature of former Governor Jon Huntsman’s departure to become U.S. Ambassador to China in 2009, successor Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration initially looked quite similar to the Huntsman team—primarily because it was the Huntsman team. Many original Team Huntsman players remained in cabinet and staff positions when Gov. Huntsman departed office. Because he didn’t have a formal transition period before assuming office, it took a while for Gov. Herbert to form his own team that reflected his views and policy aims. It has been nearly 16 years since Utah has had a gubernatorial transition in which every cabinet position and key staff role was evaluated at once to complement the vision of the new Governor.
Governor-Elect Spencer Cox’s recent announcements of key staff decisions and cabinet positions provide insight into how our new Governor intends to pursue his platform promises. At age 45 and father to four school-age children, Spencer Cox strikes a youthful note as the new Governor of a state with the youngest population in the nation. He embraces social media, regularly posting to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He is known for engaging followers in comments particularly via Twitter and often comments on the Utah Jazz with humor and a degree of authenticity that makes his social media platform an enjoyable follow for many Utah politicos. His selections of announced key staff and cabinet members provide a sense of his connection to his rural Utah roots, his appreciation for local government service, and the important role his wife Abby plays in his selection of women for key cabinet and staff positions.
So, what can we expect from Gov. Cox?
One of Gov. Cox’s first priorities is to position the state to succeed as we emerge from the pandemic over the next 12 months. In collaboration with the Utah Business Community, his team has created the “Utah Leads Together” plan to enable Utah to create jobs and generate strong economic activity in the near future. Gov. Cox’s five-point plan calls for the state to:
- Focus on education programs to strengthen Utah’s schools and provide businesses throughout the state a strong workforce to draw upon for employees
- Position Utah companies for success by lowering taxes, reducing burdensome regulations, and making the state less dependent on the federal government
- Foster an efficient state government to meet the demands citizens place on government for services
- Preserve and enhance Utah’s quality of life by prioritizing initiatives aimed at improving air quality and ensuring we have appropriate plans in place to meet the demands placed on state agencies for Utah’s expected growth
- Ensure all Utahns are involved in key statewide decisions, including Utahns living in rural areas. Gov. Cox is famously known for his daily two-hour commute from his home in rural Fairview to the state capitol. His plan calls for including citizens in rural areas of Utah in his decision-making process and ensuring voices along the Wasatch Front and the rest of Utah are heard and considered.
As Utah natives and politicos, and being slightly younger than our new Governor, Billy and I are excited to look beyond the pandemic and share in the plans and platform of a Governor prepared to embrace all of Utah from the rural to the Wasatch in the brighter days ahead in 2021.
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