Richard Piatt ReportingGayle McKeachnie: "I'm looking forward to having fun. And I'm ready for the fun to begin."
Meet the new Lieutenant Governor, Gayle McKeachnie---announced today by Olene Walker, Utah's soon-to-be Governor.
Big changes are coming to state government. Today, Olene Walker took questions for the first time since learning she will be Utah's new chief executive. Walker has a big transition ahead of her, moving from the background into the spotlight of state government. Her first task, picking someone to back her up for the next year or so.
Picking a Lieutenant Governor was tough for Olene Walker. She wants someone who works hard, but will stay behind the scenes. Her choice is ex-Legislator and Vernal attorney Gayle McKeachnie.
Gayle McKeachnie, Lt. Governor Appointee: “I'm sobered by the responsibility and the trust Olene Walker will entrust in me as Lieutenant governor. I pledge to you I will do my best to perform my duties."
McKeachnie is a trustee with Utah State University and a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission.
On this occasion it was Governor Mike Leavitt in the shadows. Soon he will face the harsh spotlight in Washington as EPA administrator. That means the challenges of state government such as the budget, education funding and economic development will require Olene Walker’s leadership. Is she up to the task?
Olene Walker, Lieutenant Governor: "On issues that we feel strongly about, we will stand up. They will know where we stand. There's no question."
Walker also promises a cooperative relationship with the Legislature--an important pledge from the executive branch of state government, especially when contentious issues loom. On one, education funding, Walker promises a firm stand.
Olene Walker, Lieutenant Governor: "I will strongly support a strong education system. You have to make priorities and you have to determine what they are in the budgetary process. And I’m very willing to do that."
As Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Olene Walker and Gayle McKeachnie have to resist the 'caretaker' government image that they're coasting through the rest of Leavitt's term. Both promised to move the state forward with no comment about running for the office themselves next year.
It would be tempting to underestimate Olene Walker; she's not the kind of person people are used to seeing in politics. But political insiders say to underestimate Olene Walker, or Gayle McKeachnie for that matter, would be a mistake.