Carole Mikita Reporting14 months after taking office, Governor Olene Walker's term as our state's top leader is coming to an end. She says, however, she is determined to influence as many issues as possible before she leaves office. Carole Mikita visited with Gov. Walker before the election at her residence, the mansion.
Governor Walker: "We've loved living here, we've enjoyed it. And often when i can't sleep, i just wander around in the half-light because they have many lights on the outside and it reflects in, and it's beautiful."
That half-light reflection in the middle of the night has helped Olene Walker rise to the state's political top -- when everyone else is sleeping, she's working. A little over a year ago, she took center stage, going from Lt. Gov. to Utah's first woman Gov. She and husband Myron, now live in the historic Governor's Mansion. She tries to make it less imposing to family, friends, even staffers, who are sometimes there trying to tackle a tough issue.
Governor Walker: “Tax reform, and put it all together. And if we had to serve them dinner, we would, have midnight snacks, we’d figure it out.”
Which is exactly what the governor has done for two dozen years in politics.
Reporter: “Take me back to that day when you officially became governor of the state of Utah.”
Governor Walker: "That had to be a remarkable day for me and, in a sense, for the history of the state of Utah. I felt the heavy, heavy weight of the fact that I was the first female governor and that I had choices to make. I could basically be a caretaker for 14 months and perhaps that would have been very easy, but I really felt the weight that I needed to do significant things in that 14 months that would be a stepping stone for others to follow if they chose to become governor."
And others did choose, at the State Convention earlier this year. Gov. Walker faced eight other Republicans; two emerged to face each other in a primary race -- she was not one of them.
Reporter: “I’ve talked to people. They’ve literally come up to me and said, ‘You know, I swish it had been Olene Walker. I would have voted for her, democrat, republican, do you feel left out?”
Governor Walker: "You know, there's something nice about going out when people say, 'Oh, I wish you were staying,’ rather than saying, 'it's time she moved on'."
Reporter: “You don’t feel betrayed by your own party?”
Governor Walker: "No, no, that's the political process. I've been involved in it for many years. I understand it very well. If you asked me if I had a choice would i do it different? Of course. I'm a republican and feel strongly about republican values and it's been an exciting experience I've had."
She will leave, she says, feeling good about her high approval rating, and vows to keep pushing for solutions to problems from education to nuclear waste, to tax reform, to public lands, right up until January 1st. And she says, Gov. elect Jon Huntsman, Jr. has her support.
Governor Walker: “It's remarkable. I've had four or five good job offers. And I keep thinking, I'm amazed that anyone would offer a 73-year-old woman a job. So, you know, there's a lot of opportunities out there."
First, though, the Walkers plan to spend the first two weeks in January at their home in St. George. The governor says her seven children and 25 grandchildren are welcome.