Herbert to join lawmakers on tour of southern Utah

For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a Utah governor is going to appear on the Legislature’s annual tour of Utah event.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert will join the 104 part-time lawmakers at a dinner and tour at Southern Utah University in Cedar City on Wednesday night.

Not since 1994 has a governor got in on the Legislature’s on-again, off again tour of different parts of the state – aimed at educating Wasatch Front legislators (which is most of them) on the unique needs and challenges of rural Utah.

In fact, way back after the 1994 event in the Logan Tabernacle, then-Gov. Mike Leavitt – a darling of the media, especially in his early years as governor – was actually disinvited to any future legislative tours.

And therein lies a tale:

Leavitt basically took over that night in the Tabernacle, addressing the Legislature and citizens of Cache County in the event that drew live TV coverage.

Leavitt and local officials’ speeches took so much of the evening; residents had time for only 12 questions for legislators – the whole idea of the town hall meeting that night.

A Deseret News story by yours truly chronicled the event.

GOP legislative leaders – who always seemed to be playing second fiddle to the young, charismatic Leavitt – were not pleased by being overshadowed, even shunted aside.

And Leavitt was quietly disinvited to further legislative tour events in the following years.

Last year Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a rural boy himself, attended a few meetings on the legislative tour.

Cox will again this year be on parts of the two-day trip to Cedar City and other areas of central Utah.

Cox, from Fairview, needs all the face-time he can get with GOP lawmakers and residents outside of his home county – looking to the 2020 governor’s race when Herbert retires.

But this is the first appearance for Herbert – and the first appearance anyone can remember of a governor joining the tour since Leavitt’s big night event back in 1994 in the Logan Tabernacle.

This year’s reappearance is not that impactful, really, if not for the history of such joint executive/legislative gatherings.

Herbert doesn’t draw the media attention of Leavitt – for any number of reasons, including dwindling TV and newspaper budgets these days.

The recent iterations of the legislative tour went to Uintah Basin in 2005, Cache Valley the next year, with a tour of Salt Lake County areas last time around.

Several years had passed before the tour started up again in the last few years – as new lawmakers came into office and were not part of the previous group tours.

Herbert won’t even be speaking WednesdayUtahPolicy.com is told.

The governor is visiting Kanab on Tuesday, and his office asked if he could join lawmakers in Cedar City on his way back home.

Herbert’s appearance certainly won’t be the major speech Leavitt made to a TV audience and those attending in the Logan Tabernacle 23 years ago, UtahPolicy.com is told.

Herbert has recently started several new education/jobs initiatives in rural Utah, including an effort to create more than 25,000 new jobs off the Wasatch Front in the next few years.

And that is one reason he was invited by SUU officials and lawmakers from the area – to highlight those efforts.