Pres. Harry S. Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Or, you could just become friends with Mike Mower.
Mike Mower is living proof that it’s possible to be a really nice guy and find success in politics. Mower is Utah’s happy political warrior. He has friends everywhere, and if he disagrees with you on policy, it’s never personal.
Mower is deputy chief of staff to Gov. Gary Herbert. He oversees constituent services and boards and commissions, and represents the Governor’s Office on various entities. “And I do whatever else is needed,” Mower said. “We all just pitch in.”
Mower has been in state government for some 15 years. Before that, he worked in political campaigns, including one of former Gov. Mike Leavitt’s re-election campaigns. He also worked for four years as one of Provo Mayor Lewis Billings’ top aides.
Mower moved to the governor’s office at the invitation of former Gov. Jon Huntsman. He worked as legislative and constituent affairs director, deputy chief of staff, and spokesperson. He’s also served as state planning coordinator.
Politics is often rough-and-tumble, and the Herbert administration has received its share of criticism and opposition. Through it all, Mower has maintained an even keel, not getting too high or too low, and staying respectful of critics.
Life is too short, Mower believes, to make enemies. It’s not his personality to hold grudges, and staying positive is also the best way to make public policy, he says. “Today’s opponent is tomorrow’s ally,” he notes. That happens over and over again in politics. Burning bridges will be later regretted.
The most important things in life are family, faith and friends, Mower said. People should not become so obsessed over politics that it hurts personal relationships. A son is a Democrat and works for Congressman Ben McAdams. Other relatives are strong Trump supporters. “Sometimes it’s hard, but we manage to keep things civil around the family dinner table.”
Mower is more qualified than most people to talk about what’s important in life because he and his children lost their wife and mother to cancer 15 years ago. “It did put things in perspective,” he said. “Politics is important, but other things are more important.” He has since remarried, but hasn’t forgotten the lesson that politics ebbs and flows, with wins and losses, but family and relationships are irreplaceable.
He loves working and serving in Utah because, despite challenges and problems, he sees Utahns coming together time after time to help each other in times of crisis. “It makes me proud to be a Utahn.” He believes his boss, Gov. Herbert, is a unifying force who seeks to bring people together rather than divide. He believes Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, if he is elected in November, will govern in the same way.
Despite growing up in small-town Ferron, Utah, Mower has been a political junkie his entire life, literally since 3rd or 4th grade. When he was in 5th grade, he studied history, and decided he wanted to talk to Alf Landon, who had been Kansas governor in the 1930s, and became the GOP nominee for president in 1936. Landon was soundly defeated by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The young Mower and his parents found Landon’s phone number listed in Topeka, Kansas, and called him up. “So I chatted with Alf Landon when I was a 5th grader.” When political figures came to Utah, Mower’s parents took him to events with them.
At age 17, in 1984, Mower was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in Dallas, the youngest member of the delegation. Mower is also a political trivia expert.
The Herbert administration comes to an end in a few months, so what will Mower do? He’s not sure. “It really is uncertain at this point,” he said. “I’ll wait and see what happens.”
Nice guys who are also competent and experienced are always in demand. So Mower shouldn’t have trouble finding his next gig.