Policymaker Profile: Getting to Know Stephen G. Handy

As a policymaker serving in the Utah House for more than a decade, Rep. Stephen G. Handy (R-Layton) says he finds his greatest satisfaction when helping constituents solve their problems. A resident of Layton for the past 42 years, he serves District 16, parts of Layton, Clearfield, and Hill Air Force Base.

Handy says he has always been interested in public policy and first got involved by running for the Layton City Council, where he served for eight years. After being defeated in a run for the Layton Mayor’s office, he was later appointed by Gov. Gary R. Herbert to fill a vacancy in the Utah House in May 2010 and has been re-elected five times.

“Legislative work can really consume you,” he notes, adding that he spends about half of his workdays devoted to his legislative duties. Realizing that you cannot be an expert on everything, Handy has focused largely on energy and air quality issues. He is excited about the new energy economy, which he says is dedicated to building a sustainable, carbon and pollution-free energy future for our health and the environment.

Handy’s committee assignments include chairman, Political Subdivisions; member, Public Utilities Energy and Technology; and member, Natural Resources Agriculture and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. He is also a co-chair of the Utah Legislature’s Clean Air Caucus. His volunteer work includes service on the United Way of Salt Lake’s Davis County Leadership Council, on Intermountain Healthcare’s McKay-Dee Board, and he is a member of the marketing committee for the Crossroads of the West Council, Boy Scouts of America.

His interest in air quality and energy issues grew out of his concern for the impact of bad air on our health and the economy. He notes that the state has lost business investment because of our poor air quality. Still, he does not consider himself an environmentalist, and he does not like government mandates. He would rather remove barriers, guide policy, and let the free market advance changes.

“I think we need to set the table, but let the marketplace do the rest,” he continues. “Our air is cleaner now than it has been in the last 20 years but adding more lanes to our freeways will not provide long-term relief for our transportation challenges, nor will more freeways help air quality,” he says. “We have to take individual responsibility for our air quality.”

Handy says studies have shown that people with higher incomes do not ride mass transit. For that reason, he is excited about the availability of Tier 3 gasoline in Utah for its potential to lower emissions and points to the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road as positive steps. Tier 3 gasoline, he notes, has lower sulfur content and is set to meet motor vehicle standards that will be phased in for model years 2017 through 2025.

Handy has been involved in some big bills, but he recalls HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, to be one of the most impactful. Passed in 2019, the Act provides cities with mechanisms to establish and achieve a community goal to source net-100% of electric energy from renewable resources by 2030. Through this legislation, cities have the option to collaborate with Rocky Mountain Power to accomplish this goal.

“The bill helps communities move more quickly to decarbonization,” he explains. “Nonetheless, it was a hard bill, and misunderstood, but we got it passed.”

Professionally, Handy has owned a public relations and marketing communications consulting business, Stephen G. Handy Marketing and Communications, for the past 20 years. Previously, he worked 12 years as marketing director for the Deseret News and the five years as marketing director of the Standard-Examiner. While at the Deseret News Handy got involved in book publishing and has since developed a niche market helping people publish their biographies.

A graduate of the University of Utah, he holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in Human Resources Management. When he is not working, Handy always has a handful of books he is reading. He also enjoys traveling with his wife, Holly, and spending time with his six children and 17 grandchildren. Handy is an avid fly fisherman and a season ticket holder for University of Utah sports events.