Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox has appointed Steve Starks as the governor’s Olympic and Paralympic Advisor. In this position, he will act as a liaison with the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, where he also serves as the governor’s designee and vice chair.
“Utah has another fantastic chance to host the world and we want to make our best case to the International Olympic Committee,” Gov. Cox said. “Steve’s leadership, business acumen, experience leading a large sports and entertainment organization, and his ability to get things done will help Utah cross the finish line. I appreciate his willingness to take on this ambitious task.”
Steve Starks is the chief executive officer and member of the board of directors of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. Prior to this role, Starks was the president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment. During his time with the organization, he has helped develop the organization’s growth strategy, led mergers and acquisitions, led the successful bid for Utah to host the National Basketball Association’s 2023 All-Star Game, and oversaw the award-winning renovation of Vivint Arena. Starks is active in the community and is a past chair of the Salt Lake Chamber board of directors. He also served on the Weber State University Board of Trustees and is currently a board member of Silicon Slopes. He was recognized as Utah CEO of the Year by Utah Business in 2021 and a Top Forty Under 40 Sports Executives by Sports Business Journal in 2018. Starks is a graduate of Weber State University.
“I am honored to serve our state as Gov. Cox’s Olympic and Paralympic Advisor and encouraged to see this as a priority from his administration,” said Starks. “Winter sports have a unique place in our community, including but certainly not limited to the 2002 Winter Olympics. I share the governor’s commitment to hosting another Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and am confident that Utah will continue to demonstrate our strong planning and hosting capabilities, building upon a strong legacy and previous success.
“I look forward to working with Gov. Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Catherine Raney Norman and the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games to ensure that our capital city is afforded another opportunity to welcome the world back to Utah,” said Starks.
In addition to Starks, Gov. Cox appointed Shelli Gardner to be his second designee on the governing board for the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. Gardner has extensive business success in her own right, having co-founded Stampin’ Up! in 1988. Between 1998 and 2014, she served as CEO. With its manufacturing facility in Kanab, Utah, corporate office and distribution center in Riverton, Utah, and its international offices, Stampin’ Up! employs over 500 individuals worldwide.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson joined Gov. Cox in nominating Nubia Peña to serve as board secretary and Nolan Karras to serve as audit committee chair.
Peña is the director for the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs and was recently appointed to serve in a concurrent role as senior advisor on equity and opportunity to Gov. Cox. Prior to her public sector experience, Peña worked as a community organizer, advocate and ally for systematically marginalized populations for the past 15 years. As an attorney, she worked for the Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys and served as adjunct faculty at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. Since 2007, Peña has also served as the training and prevention education specialist at the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA). Peña received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in May 2016. She was named in Utah Business Magazine’s 2020 40 Under 40 award recipients, recognized among the 2020 Heroes for Utah Philanthropy Day, and selected as one of Sundance Film Festival 2021 Women’s Leadership Celebration honorees.
Karras is chairman of The Karras Company, Inc., a registered investment advisor in Roy, Utah. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and he began his career with Arthur Andersen. Karras served in the Utah Legislature from 1981 to 1990 where he served as Speaker of the House. Following his legislative service, he was on the Board of Trustees of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for more than seven years. During this time, he chaired the Finance Committee. For the last eight years, Karras has served on the Board of Trustees at Weber State University, including service as chair. Prior, he served for 12 years on the Utah State Board of Regents where he also served as chair. Karras is a past board member of Utah Power, PacifiCorp, Scottish Power and Merit Medical Services. While at Merit, he served as the lead director. He also served on the board of Beneficial Life Insurance, a Salt Lake-based life and annuity company.
In other action, the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games named Catherine Raney Norman as board chair, who replaces Cindy Crane.
“I’m so grateful to Cindy for her dedication and service in this role. And I congratulate Catherine for her willingness to serve. As a former Olympian, Catherine has long been an advocate for the athletes and will put their needs and concerns front and center,” Gov. Cox said. “I’m excited to work with her and the other newly named athletes as we all work together to bring the Games back to Utah.”
Photos of Steve Starks here, Shelli Gardner here, Nubia Pena here and Nolan Karras here.