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Walker Cleans Out Office

Walker Cleans Out Office

Posted - Dec. 29, 2004 at 10:52 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Olene Walker packed up her things on her last full day in a state office Wednesday, boxing up a legacy as the state's first female governor and ending Utah's shortest governorship since gaining statehood.

Walker, 74, mused with reporters as she sifted through her personal and professional effects and cleaned out the desk that will soon belong to Gov.-elect Jon Huntsman Jr. It was full of all kinds of things typically produced by the paper-trail machinery of state government, like memos and various awards, but also included odd miscellany, like a can of WD-40, and an old handwritten ledger accounting for special project spending in the governor's office.

"We are making headway. It's very slow, though, because I take too much time reflecting on how great it's been," she said.

Walker's belongings were sorted into separate piles for material to be kept in the state archives, personal things to take home, a box literally for things to be sifted through later and various odds and ends to throw away.

In the "keep" pile, for example, might be a photo of her ringing the New York Stock Exchange bell and a litany of notes from children the governor says she can't bring herself to part with. Talking points on Initiative 1, a $150 million bond issue that failed on the Nov. 2 ballot, were tossed in the trash.

"As I look at photos, or notes or awards, of course I get emotional," she said. "It's hard to realize that this is coming to the end."

Walker says she's likely out of public office for good after nine years as a state legislator, 11 years as lieutenant governor and one in Utah's chief executive office.

The transition will be more than just professional. It means she and husband Myron will be moving out of the governor's mansion and back into their Salt Lake City home, and she'll be on her own for things like driving and grocery shopping.

Walker says she's not yet sure what job she'll hold next, but that she's gotten several attractive offers in higher education and the private sector.

"These are things I'll decide in the next few weeks," she said.

Walker's desk was full of notes and crafts from children, a nod to her political passion for education and childhood development. The governor will likely be best remembered for her childhood reading program and an ambitious proposal to overhaul Utah's dusty tax system -- though it was unveiled just before her term was to expire, and might never make it on the books.

Walker succeeded Gov. Mike Leavitt in November 2003 following his appointment as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

She's still officially Utah's governor until Huntsman's Jan. 3 inauguration, and remaining official duties include filling the vacant 3rd District Court seat and traveling to Arizona to watch Utah in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl.

She also plans on leaving Huntsman a few surprises in the desk -- two four-leaf clovers and the WD-40.

"Of course it'll be hard to leave office," she said. "But I also realize that governors need to pass the baton and get off the track."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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