One of Utah’s best-known legislators – and controversial ones, as well – is retiring.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, tells UtahPolicy.com: “It’s been a great ride, but 16 years is enough.”
Where to start on Noel’s career?
He has been a steadfast defender of states rights and battled federal land policies and bureaucrats.
He’s driven environmentalists, conservationists and their allies crazy – sometimes to the point of stretching, or breaking, the civility rules of the Utah House.
More than once Noel has been called into order in either committee meetings or floor debates for his vehement rebukes of opponents.
Yet, he leaves the House with friends on both sides of the aisle.
And anyone would be hard pressed not to say that Noel has had a significant impact on state policy in many areas.
He’s advocated the use of taxpayer dollars to defend a local officeholder prosecuted for driving over federal land. It didn’t happen.
He’s wanted to sue the feds time and again, over various public lands and water issues. Those lawsuits are yet to be filed, but the structure has been set up.
He’s pushed for the construction of a billion-dollar water pipeline from Lake Powell through southern Utah to St. George.
The list goes on and on.
Perhaps his greatest achievement – or his participation in it – however, came this year: GOP President Donald Trump downsizing the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monuments.
Many thought Noel was nuts when he advocated the repeal, or downsizing, of the Staircase.
It had been around for 20 years. The idea of repealing or downsizing Bears Ears, just designated by outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama in December 2016 was much more likely.
But Trump did it – with the Staircase to be reduced by 1 million acres and broken up into three much smaller national monuments.
And Noel got Trump to sign his tie along the way.
Noel made national news – again – in the 2018 Legislature by introducing a bill that would have designated several scenic roads in southern Utah as a Donald J. Trump Highway.
Hate emails and texts streamed in. National media stories criticized him.
He pulled the bill after saying he and his family were getting death threats from Trump haters.
Noel has also seen heartbreak recently.
Several years ago his long-time wife died accidentally.
He recently remarried and told UtahPolicy.com it is time to leave the House.
“I have a new wife, a new life. I have 48 grandchildren, and I’m missing their lives” every day he is up in Salt Lake City doing his legislative work.
From a political aspect, Noel was a strong supporter of retiring House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.
They both came into the House in 2002.
Hughes, likewise, has supported Noel, making him the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee the last several years.
But Noel says it is personal, not political, reasons he’s leaving at the end of this year.
“I’ve been planning” this retirement “for a while.”
“It’s been a great ride.”