Governor Gary Herbert didn't have to go far to find a replacement for Amanda Smith, who is stepping down after six years as head of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Monday morning Herbert tapped Alan Matheson, currently serving as his environmental advisor, to be the next Executive Director of the DEQ.
"As I think about the mission of DEQ, I recognize that clean air, clean water, and healthy landscapes are foundational for what we want to do in this state," said Matheson. "It's critical for our health and the economy to attract the best and brightest workers, stimulate tourism and maintain our quality of life."
Matheson has a tough job ahead of him. State officials and lawmakers have been taking heat because of poor air quality in the state. Wintertime inversions are a constant source of criticism. He was a key player in the controversial proposal to ban all wintertime wood burning as a way to reduce air pollution.
"I know I'm being thrown into a caldron of controversy," he said. "People are passionate about the environment."
Matheson says his experience working as Herbert's environmental advisor will be vital in helping him navigate his new role.
"This job can't just be about issues today. We have to realize that decisions we make will have implications long into the future. A lot of what we do is thinking long-term."
Herbert praised Matheson's work in his office and his time heading up Envision Utah, which will serve him well as the state plans for a population explosion in the next few decades.
"We need to move ahead. I'm confident Alan will find the best path forward for all issues and find a good balance."
Matheson says his top three issues as he moves into the job will be air quality, water issues and developing and maintaining the staff at DEQ.
Herbert says Matheson will continue in some role as his environmental advisor while still heading up the new agency.