Past Decade Brought Highs and Lows for Leavitt

Past Decade Brought Highs and Lows for Leavitt

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Richard Piatt reportingIf confirmed as head of the EPA, Governor Leavitt would leave the state's top job as one of the most popular governors in the nation.

But recently, tough issues have hurt his approval rating.

Governor Leavitt started the state's top job in January of 1993, looking forward to 'A great adventure' in his words at the time.

Right away, he took on education, high tech, economic development, and state government efficiency.

Mike Leavitt/ Governor of Utah/ January 4, 1993: "Already we have recommended the consolidation of several divisions of state government, and will suggest more organizational changes in the future. Some of them might be painful."

As the Leavitt administration matured, there were growing pains. But by the time he took the oath of office again, he had enjoyed a landslide victory and the highest approval rating of any governor in the nation: 91 per cent.

By then, Governor Leavitt had honed his agenda: education and technology and their effect on Utah's economy.

Leavitt was in office through an era of extraordinary change and prosperity in Utah.

He was famous for using props--visual aids-- in his annual State of the State Address.

The Governor also played a part in securing the 2002 Winter Olympics for Utah. But he hit a bit of a low point when he was forced to answer questions related to the bid scandal.

Mike Leavitt/ Governor of Utah/ February 2, 2000: "I had no knowledge or ever heard of that allegation until I became part of the public discussion."

The scandal never touched him politically. But by the time he was a candidate again in 2000, that, a sinking economy and rising jobless rate had hurt his approval rating.

In spite of that, Leavitt was elected to an unprecedented third term in office.

Over the years, Leavitt has also developed a keen interest in environmental issues. He developed a policy of 'en libra'--finding balance in the face of conflicting interests.

He took a controvercial stand last year by recommending the state stop subsidizing water in rural areas.

Leavitt has also rankeled the environmental community over wilderness issues. In particualar: A recent deal with the Interior Department over who should control rights of way in places the government claims are protected.

But Monday, the Governor stated he has accomplished one of his goals over the years: to leave Utah a better place than he found it.

The Governor is getting an early start on addressing environmental issues on a grander scale. He is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a conference of the Environmental Council of States, hosted in Salt Lake City.

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