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LEAVITT VOWS TO SET NEW STANDARDS FOR UTAH GOVERNMENT

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Promising not to rest, not to back down until he achieves a "new level of performance" for state government, Michael Okerlund Leavitt was sworn in as Utah's 14th governor at noon Monday in Utah State Capitol ceremonies.

Joining him in taking the oath of office were his lieutenant governor, Olene Walker - the first woman to hold that job - Attorney General Jan Graham - also the first woman to hold that job - Auditor Tom Allen, Treasurer Ed Alter and Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Howe - all of whom won election with Leavitt Nov. 3.At 42, Leavitt is the state's second-youngest governor, and in an inaugural address to the 1,700 guests in the Capitol rotunda, he stressed five areas he'll concentrate on over the next four years, promising to work hard. "I'll never give up."

In talking about education - his first priority - Leavitt said he realizes that some teachers, administrators, parents, even students, worry about the changes he'll demand. Perhaps they'll yearn for a return to "normal."

"Normal as it existed in the past will not return. The momentum of change and technological growth is too rapid. . . . Now is the time to take the quantum leap forward. We will be focused like a laser in seeing that it is successful. I will not back down. We prepare the work force of the future, and they are our children."

Besides improving education, Leavitt promised a "new level of performance" in building a strong economy around higher-paying jobs; to protect "as a precious asset our enviable quality of life"; to make state government even more efficient and effective, not allowing it to grow faster than the private sector; and to care for Utah's needy with "two important principles in mind - self-reliance and personal charity."

Leavitt started his address with a personal thanks to retiring Gov. Norm Bangerter, who turned 60 Monday. Leavitt said Bangerter's eight years of stewardship leaves a fiscally strong state well-positioned for the next leap in performance.

Leavitt, an insurance executive, started his political career by managing a number of high-profile Republican campaigns - and became a good friend of Bangerter's along the way. In fact, Bangerter endorsed Leavitt before the GOP gubernatorial primary this year - a clear break in the tradition of incumbents not getting involved in races until after their party's nominee is chosen.

The new governor, clearly excited over his new job, peppered his address with reminiscences of his just-completed campaign and of growing up in Cedar City, the oldest of half a dozen boys.

Change is difficult, he said, and understandably upsetting to many. As a boy, he remembered driving up to Salt Lake City before freeways were built. Winding along the two-lane highway, the family car would pass through every small town. If he and his brothers were good, they'd get an ice cream treat at the Frostee Freeze on Nephi's Main Street. The freeway now bypasses many of those small, family businesses, causing hardship. But with change also came opportunity - new, growing businesses, even more cash flow for those who adapted to capture it, Leavitt said.

That is what state government must do in a number of areas - change to be more efficient; operate differently to be more productive. And along with the change comes opportunity for those who join and prosper.

Talking about how his administration will provide a good, healthy business climate, Leavitt recalled visiting a friend this year who was retiring early because of health problems. As the two friends talked, colleagues arrived at the man's house to give him a retirement gift. The man started talking about his long-time job with his company. He pointed to the pictures of four daughters hanging on the wall. "They grew up in this house, the mortgage paid because the company never missed a paycheck," the man said. He sent them all to college because his job was secure. He had good health care in retirement because of his company's insurance. In leaving, Leavitt heard the man whisper almost to himself, "I love that company."

"I left his home that night with a heightened appreciation of the role business plays in the lives of our citizens."

While praising business, Leavitt said government has to be watched. "Government has a tendency to grow rapidly and enlarge its role improperly. It must be held in check. Government simply cannot be expected to solve all of society's problems. Unlimited good projects exist on which tax dollars could be spent. My heart is often willing to do more than my head tells me is prudent. We must remember that strong families of every type, strong businesses, and strong communities, not big government, form the backbone of a healthy society."

Utah government may be doing things right, Leavitt said, but is it doing the right things? He recalled in his youth, Cedar City residents had two gasoline stations, one at each end of town. They each provided the old-style service, pumped your gas, cleaned your windows and repaired cars. As times changed, one station owner changed also - going to self-service gas, opening a convenience store inside the station, eliminating his repair operation. The other owner kept doing things the same old way, pumping gas and repairing cars. "The one adapted and prospered . . . The one that continued business as usual, offering the same old services, went broke."

Change is part of life - including a change in government leadership, he said. But not only was there a change in administration Monday, there was also a change in generation. Bangerter grew up during World War II and fought in the Korean War. Leavitt is a Baby Boomer, evident when he read a note from his mother, who remembered young Mike's favorite TV show - Gunsmoke. It seemed 4-year-old Mike would ride around the house on his stick horse, quoting Matt Dillon's opening lines: Being a U.S. marshall "is a chancy job, and a little lonely." Leavitt promised his mother that while being governor is a chancy job, he won't be lonely. He'll have the people of Utah along with the ride.

Repeating a story he told along the campaign trail, Leavitt said the first settlers of Cedar City were promised in 1897 - just one year after statehood - a state college if citizens would donate the land and build the school house. Eagerly, they agreed. But a hard winter came and Utah's attorney general refused to pay the salary of the college's teachers - working out of a temporary building - if the schoolhouse wasn't finished quickly.

Men and women pitched in. Working in deep snow drifts, they cut timber on the eastern mountains and Old Sorrel - the only horse strong enough to drag the wood out - plowed through the drifts. The schoolhouse was finished against tremendous odds.

"Throughout human history, times arise when it is clear that men and women must act. Today, our challenges are much different, but just as daunting (as in Cedar City, 1897). Vision, determination and unity will be required to meet the challenges of a tough and competitive global economy. We must rally as did that community to elevate our education system to world-class, to prepare our students for the high-tech, high-paying jobs of tomorrow, to make our government lean and efficient, to preserve our enviable quality of life and to protect the capacity to control our own destiny."