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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Moments after Gov. Mike Leavitt leaves office Nov. 5, Utah's new Gov. Olene Walker will be sworn in. In the meantime, Leavitt will ready himself for his new job as chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Leavitt said Tuesday he would announce which rural roads across federal lands qualify as public rights of way under a 19th century law; he will meet with other executive branch officeholders about the Workers Compensation Fund; and would sign two executive orders, one for the state education system and another setting up what he calls an outdoor recreation "economic ecosystem."
Other high points of the "transition module" Leavitt launched Tuesday are a farewell address to the state and an election day lunch at a Mexican restaurant the day before he becomes the first Utah governor to leave office before the end of a term.
"I'm a smorgasbord of emotions," Leavitt said during a news briefing at the Utah Capitol. "It's been a morning of some complexity."
Leavitt said Walker would announce on Wednesday her choice for lieutenant governor, who also will be sworn in Nov. 5.
Tuesday morning, Leavitt, 52, the nation's current longest-serving governor, was confirmed to head the EPA. He will take the oath of office Nov. 6 and be inaugurated on a date President Bush will set, Leavitt said.
"The president has an environmental record I'm proud of," he said, but declined to say which policies he liked in particular.
"I feel greatly optimistic ... that I can make a contribution," Leavitt said. "Of course it means I will have to conclude my service as governor of a state I love."
Leavitt takes on the federal agency at a contentious time. The president's environmental record is under attack. A group of Democratic senators, vowing to hold up Leavitt's confirmation until Bush answered questions about his administration's energy policies and reported coercion of the EPA to release contested information about air pollution in New York City after the 2001 terror attacks, folded Tuesday, voting 88 to 8 to confirm Leavitt. But the nomination process took an unprecedented 55 days.
Closer to home, outdoor retailers whose twice-yearly trade show in Salt Lake City brings millions to the state renewed criticism of Leavitt, saying he has failed to deliver on his promised protections for the state's wild lands. The Outdoor Industry Association said Sunday in a letter to the governor that it was "immensely disappointed" with his lack of results, and threatened again to take its trade show to another state.
An environmental group's federal lawsuit filed in August that seeks details of the secret deal between Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton that lifted wilderness protection from more than 6 million acres of land in Utah also remains pending.
And Leavitt is on the witness list for the bribery prosecution of two former Salt Lake Olympic bid leaders, whose testimony could show what Leavitt knew about the worst scandal in the games' history. That trial started less than an hour before the Senate confirmed Leavitt's nomination Wednesday.
Leavitt will be commuting between Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., until the end of the school year, said his wife, Jacalyn.
"He has this little apartment a few blocks from EPA, and I'm just hoping he'll work his tail off," she said.
First elected governor in 1992, Leavitt solidified his leadership on states' rights, welfare reform and Internet education -- and had been mentioned as a possible running mate for former Sen. Bob Dole in his bid to unseat President Bill Clinton.
The widely popular Leavitt won re-election in 1996 and 2000 and refused to rule out an unprecedented fourth term even as his nomination swirled in the Senate.
He also quickly established a regional and national presence. Leavitt chaired the Western Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, the Council of State Governments and was in line to head the National Governors Association.
Leavitt pushed medical reform in Utah with his 1994 Healthprint program, and in 1995 presided over the Growth Summit that resulted in a 10-year, $2.6 billion highway program.
Leavitt and Utah became familiar to the world during the wildly successful 2002 Olympic Winter Games that generated $100 million profit. Since then, Leavitt has served as an adviser to the White House on homeland security.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)