Former Salt Lake City mayor and outgoing executive director of Utah Rivers Council Ted Wilson recently signed on as Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s senior adviser on environmental matters. The Democrat and environmental activist will head up Herbert’s Balanced Resource Council.
So, are you a “czar” now, or is this appointment, as some critics suggest, Herbert’s attempt to attract more left-leaning votes for his upcoming election?
Let’s see how far we can stretch this royalty metaphor. Actually, I am more like the king’s ambassador. My role is to bring the serfs of the kingdom—the environmentalists—to greater positions of influence with the king’s noblemen, i.e., the county commissioners of Utah’s 29 counties. If it doesn’t work, well, it’s the bloody tower for me.
What are the top issues on your list for your group to tackle?
The group I will head up, the Balanced Resource Council, won’t meet officially until Dec. 9. Our list of priorities will be addressed at that meeting. I am, however, organizing a governor’s summit on climate change for January 2010. Other priorities in my advisory role to Gov. Herbert are likely to include wilderness, oil and gas leasing and Nevada’s attempt to drain Utah’s west desert of its water.
As an advisory group, how will your group influence the policy-making process?
Our charge is simply to advise the governor. We have no statutory authority, but the governor can certainly use our recommendations to wield sizable influence over the policy process.
Which job in your past has best prepared you for what you are about to undertake?
My job as Salt Lake City mayor often put me in the middle seat of the airplane, which is to say—it’s an uncomfortable place to be, but it offers a decided advantage in talking to people. Especially those you think you won’t like.
What’s the best way to find middle ground in the often-polarizing landuse debates?
The best way is to build more defined personal relationships between those of opposite views. Once people see each other as human and as seeking to get similar results, they do find ways to come together. This is my goal.
Care to speculate if you’ll break ranks with the Dems and support Herbert’s re-election?
The governor and I agreed at the outset that I would remain neutral.