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SANDY — The Costco store on 11100 S. Automall Dr. in Sandy is getting ready for a special visitor on Friday and for hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who might want to join him.
It's former President George W. Bush, and he's not going there to shop.
Bush will spend two hours autographing copies of his new book, "Decision Points." It's an inside account of key decisions he made at turning points during his two-term presidency.
"Obviously it's a once-in-a-lifetime event for most of us, including myself, to meet a president," said Scott Christensen, general manager of the Sandy Costco warehouse.
Friday Nov. 19 at Costco in Sandy
11100 S. Automall Dr.
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Wristband given at 8 a.m.
It's not clear why Bush chose a Costco store in Utah. It's one of the few places in the country where he's dropping in to promote his new book, which is shaping up to be a best-seller. Utah will be his only stop while he's flying back to Texas from California after a Thursday night appearance on NBC's Jay Leno's show.
Costco shoppers seem eager to meet Bush on Friday, "You bet." said Mike Corfield of Riverton. "I supported him when he was president." Jovonna Howard of Orem, expressed a more complex view of Bush. "I don't think all the problems were his fault in the country," she said. When asked if he was responsible for some of them, she said, "No, it's just, stuff happens. And it just happened to happen when he was president."
State Republican officials were initially irritated because Bush set aside no time for a party fundraiser or a "thank you" meeting with party activists. "I mean, Utah was a strong Bush state," said state party chairman Dave Hansen, referring to Bush's two presidential elections. "I think we were tops, both times."
After Hansen made calls to organizers of the visit, the Bush team relented and scheduled a few minutes for political activists to meet the ex-president, just before two hours of book signing.
The Bush visit has been a well-kept secret. Christensen said he knew the possibility was in the works for three months but only received confirmation of the visit in the last few days. He said the Bush team specifically asked for a book-signing stop in the Salt Lake area. He presumes it was because of Utah's strong political support for Bush.
Hansen predicts an enthusiastic crowd for the book signing. "We are a Republican state," Hansen said. "He was our last Republican president. There's going to be a lot of people that will want to come and meet him."
Most shoppers won't even see the former president. Bush will be in a secluded area of the Costco store and his fans will enter through a separate door and metal detectors.
"The only individuals that will have that opportunity are individuals that are in line and receive a wristband which we're going to distribute starting at 8 a.m. on Friday morning," Christensen said.
The Secret Service handles security for ex-presidents. Sandy police predict minimal traffic disruptions during Bush's brief visit to Utah. Hansen expects a contrast with other Secret Service operations he's observed over the years. "A presidential visit is, basically, they shut down everything," Hansen said. "With an ex-president, the security is much less. But at the same time, it's still there."
Once the book signing begins, Bush will do it Costco-style. "I've heard he can sign anywhere from about 250 to 300 books an hour, Christensen said. "We're hoping he can do that, plus."
That works out to 12 seconds per book, which doesn't allow much time for conversation. Shoppers who stand in line to buy an autographed copy will have no opportunity for personalized inscriptions, and very little time for political chit-chat with Bush.