SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's longest serving Attorney General is leaving office in a few days. On Thursday, Mark Shurtleff shared his proud and humbling moments as Utah's head law enforcement officer.
A lot has happened since Shurtleff became the Attorney General in 2001. Shurtleff feels he hasn't shied away from the challenges that have come to him during that time, both professional and personal.
"12 years as Attorney General," Shurtleff said. "I've loved it. I've loved every single moment."
Shurtleff has had his share of experiences while he has been in office. A gag gift from a former polygamist nemesis is just one of a roomful of memorable gifts from his time as attorney general. Another is a picture from his supporters who have "been in his corner."
12 years as Attorney General. I've loved it. I've loved every single moment.
"Isn't it amazing how they can photoshop?" Shurtleff said of the gift. "They photoshopped those gloves onto my arms."
But in 12 years, there have been a lot of serious moments along with the humor. One of the big fights that Shurtleff has encountered is against the crimes associated with polygamy.
"There's no way we can go after all those who are involved in polygamy," Shurtleff said. "So let's focus on the crimes against children, incest, crimes against women, and places where they may be ripping off the welfare system.
Another big issue he has tackled is the war on drugs. Shurtleff feels that it can only be won if treatment is involved in the process.
"You tackle methamphetamine, and then you realize that prescription drug abuse is the number one problem in Utah," he said. "And then as soon as we go after spice, someone comes up with a new drug to go after."
Shurtleff has also taken on issues involving internet crimes, most prominently, against children. And around the time Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, he established the AMBER alert system for just that kind of case.
He's also worked on immigration issues, and taken a more controversial stand against hard liners instead of favoring the more moderate Utah compact approach.
"I've taken the shots from members of my own party, from members of the legislature to do what's right," Shurtleff said.
He's also taken the lead on disbanding the BCS which reflected his own concern about the law and his love for football. His devotion to BYU and the U of U is reflected in his memorabilia.
"I went to both schools," he said. "People used to say, 'You're just doing that to be political.' No, I went to both schools."
Shurtleff has also faced some public personal challenges during his time as attorney general. He had a motorcycle accident that eventually led to a knee replacement. Later, he faced a scary fight against colon cancer. He says he is now cancer free.
After his farewell luncheon, Shurtleff is headed to a private law firm. But he says he'll still live in Utah, and he says he is looking forward to taking a much more quiet role in life.