On May 18th, 2009, for the first time since Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. accepted President Barack Obama's offer to become U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, both Huntsman and Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert held a 30-minute joint press conference to discuss the decision and the upcoming transition. Primary story from KSL Channel 5, which includes a video allowing you to toggle between the news story and the 30-minute press conference. Additional stories from the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune. KSL video embedded below:
Huntsman said he agonized over accepting the job. "Now, the decision that we have made was not an easy one. It was very, very difficult. As I said, we have had many sleepless nights, and Mary Kaye and our children and I have had thorough conversations about what this means, not just for a state that we love and have enjoyed serving, but also for our immediate family," Huntsman said.
In the midst of it, of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. Huntsman said the transition process will begin immediately by having Herbert step into public events. "I think this is important, not only for the public to see Gary in this position, but it's also important for Gary to be out there as he's introduced to new people and becomes more comfortable and familiar with new issues. I will remain governor and aid Gary in every possible way to ensure that we have a smooth transition during the days and the weeks ahead", said Huntsman
Huntsman also said he would focus on a successful transition so that when that transfer of power occurs, it will be an afterthought for most people. The transition will occur as soon as he is confirmed ambassador by the U.S. Senate. This may not happen for several weeks yet. Huntsman also effusively thanked the people of Utah for their support over the years, and proclaimed his satisfaction with the progress over his two primary goals, bridging the divide and making Utah a preeminent state.
Governor Huntsman and his wife then committed an incredibly classy act. After yielding the podium to Herbert, they didn't hang around, but exited the room so that the future Governor and his wife could enjoy the full spotlight and exclusive focus. Herbert told reporters, "This is a great honor for Jeanette and I. We are excited about the opportunity to continue to work and to serve a state that we love so dearly. We also understand that there are some significant challenges ahead for us as we adapt to the new responsibility of being governor and first lady, but we look forward to the challenge and we come to the job prepared."
Both the governor and the future governor promised to keep the state's forward momentum and progress going. Herbert said, "In order for us to continue the ship of state to keep going down the right road, I think consistency and continuity is important; therefore, I've asked all the existing cabinet members to stay on. There's not going to be any big shake up, we're not going veer to the left or to the right." His major priorities will be the grow the economy and to empower the private sector.
Upcoming Gov. Herbert says he has not picked his own lieutenant governor yet, but that's a top priority. He repeated his statement that, in spite of differences with Huntsman on social issues, he and the governor are more alike where it counts. He says his inauguration will be simple and quick. An additional KSL story with video focuses more on this issue.
A poll currently conducted by KSL shows a split in Utahn attitudes about Herbert's potential. Out of 560 respondents as of this post, 42 percent are either somewhat or very confident in Herbert's capabilities, 21 percent are neutral, and 37 percent are either somewhat or very concerned. The poll is an "unscientific" poll.
Analysis: What a professional job by Utah's top two leaders. Both proclaim Utah's virtues and speak of Utah's policies, rather than harp on negative issues. It is no wonder that Utah is one of the fastest-growing and more prosperous states. I hear "can" a lot more than I hear "can't".
Contrast that to Alaska. Although Alaska has a governor who wants to emulate people like Jon Huntsman, Alaska is plagued by too many yuppies who want the state to be a national park and too many losers who think the road to prosperity is through welfare. Alaska has too many people who think "can't" rather than "can". Three Anchorage Assembly members say they "can't" build the Knik Arm Bridge. Losers in Bristol Bay say they "can't" allow the Pebble Mine to be built. Alaska has gouged both the oil industry and the cruise ship industry with punitive taxes and draconian regulations. While Utah loudly proclaims it is open for business, Alaska proclaims just the opposite - that it's closed for business. Alaska could be the most prosperous state in the Union - but many of its people are too stupid, selfish, and shortsighted to see the possibilities. Read The Alaska Standard to learn the truth about Alaska politics.
While Utah aspires to be a "new frontier", Alaska is transitioning from the "Last Frontier" to a "Dead Frontier". One has to wonder if Alaskans really deserve their state.