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Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter's office always gets a lot of telephone calls.

But the phones have been ringing off the hooks these past weeks as dozens of appointed officials have their friends and supporters calling to say their man or woman should be kept on in the second Bangerter administration.Utah's merit system is fairly extensive. All but 300 or so of the state's 13,000 workers are protected from indiscriminate firing by the governor.

However, the governor does directly hire and fire department executive directors and agency and division directors. He also hires most of the public information officers and, of course, his own and the lieutenant governor's staff.

It is those 300-odd people who are wondering this week if they'll have a Merry Christmas, or be looking for a new job.

Most will keep their posts, says Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's new chief of staff. Bangerter asked for the resignations of all appointed officials several weeks ago. So he'll just accept those he wants out.

About 30 people will be told they have to change jobs, Scruggs says. Some, who came from the merit ranks and have years of state service, will drop down into the protected ranks again.

Others will just have to leave state government.

Some special interest groups are lining up for a fight with the governor, should he replace the person they want him to keep.

The clear example is Bill Geer, the director of state Wildlife Resources, and a group of conservationists and sportsmen.

A number of sportsmen, outdoorsmen and conservationist groups called a press conference several weeks before the Nov. 8 election and endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson, saying Bangerter hadn't helped their causes in his four years in office.

The move stunned many political observers, who wondered what advantage the sportsmen sought in so openly opposing a sitting governor.

Of course, everyone thought Wilson would win. He was leading in the polls and Bangerter's campaign seemed stagnant. Perhaps they wanted to get on the Wilson bandwagon early.

But Bangerter came on quickly at the end of the campaign and won with 40 percent of the vote in a close three-way race.

No decision has been announced on Geer as of Friday morning. Almost to a man, those outdoor groups want Bangerter to keep Geer. Geer is only one of a dozen agency bosses whose future is clouded.

Bangerter will now clean house as needed, his aides say, not with political revenge in mind, but with an eye toward building a loyal team over the next four years.

He has every right to do this. He even has a responsibility to do it.

And what such groups as the sportsmen need to understand is that the governor runs the government, is elected to do so, and that while the executive directors or division directors who oversee their special groups should strive to serve them and the public, those directors' first responsibility is to serve the governor.

If they don't, they get fired.

That sounds tough, but you can't run a government with divided loyalties and conflicting policies.

It used to be just so. Agencies such as Wildlife Resources used to have a managerial citizen board that oversaw agency operations and hired the agency director.

But Gov. Scott M. Matheson changed that system precisely because he lacked control - and thus ultimate responsibility - over those agencies. Now those citizen boards are only advisory, and don't hire agency directors.

If people don't like the way the governor runs things, there is a simple solution. Don't vote for him if he seeks re-election.

Bangerter won more votes than the other two men challenging him and he must now run the government as he sees fit.