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From one election to the next, they don't know if they'll have a job. They take flak for dumb decisions they didn't make, sometimes ones they didn't even agree with. They're the lightning rods of public policy. And few people know their names.

For they aren't the politicians whose names are on the ballot. They're the politicians' top aides - who often helped the boss get elected in the first place. They're the professional political appointees.And while some move in and out of public life with the will of the electorate - fired, if you will, when their bosses are out of office - others have found a way to turn their politics into lengthy and well-paying careers, moving from one political-appointee job to another even as their elected bosses fall by the wayside.

They are people like Dave Hansen, Lonnie Johnson, Ted Stewart, Kay Chris-ten-sen, John Gust, Jill Remington and others who work for people like Norm Bangerter, Ted Wilson, Wayne Owens, Jim Hansen and Randy Horiuchi.

There are relatively few political-patronage jobs in Utah, and the appointments are hard to come by. For example, with 13,000 workers on the state payroll, the governor has fewer than 300 appointees under his direct control. Mayors, county commissioners and political-party chairmen have even fewer appointees.

So Utah has few old pols - people who earned their jobs through years of political ward work, campaign fund raising and organizing. In fact, probably fewer than 50 people really could be considered political careerists.

Among those elite few are men and women who have made names - and careers - for themselves behind the scenes.

20 years in the yoke

Perhaps the dean is Dave Hansen, who by his own admission has been a political careerist for more than 20 years. Hansen recently resigned his post as executive director of the state Republican Party, the second time he held the job, to become a regional director for the National Republican Committee, the second time he's held that job.

"My first political job was in 1972, when I worked the summer for the Nick Strike (Republican) for governor campaign and got paid a total of $400," Hansen said. Since then he's bounced around a bit - feeling the traditional job insecurity of his trade.

But never same yoke for long

Back and forth, up and down. Few political careerists can say they've held the same job for five or 10 years.

Lonnie Johnson counted eight years as chief deputy to late County Treasurer Arthur L. Monson, but he says he and others who trace their political roots to the activism of the 1960s and '70s weren't looking for longevity, security or financial gain.

As a wildlife advocate in 1972, Johnson got involved in politics to fight legislation that would have permitted the use of poisons to control predators. "My motivation was idealism," Johnson said.

While working with former state Rep. Charles Bennett, Johnson realized one person can have an impact and that politics magnifies that power. He hitched his wagon to the Democratic Party, taking appointive jobs and guiding new enlistees along the way. He owes his current job - Salt Lake County public works director - to County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi.

Financial struggles

So does Blaze Wharton, the commissioner's executive assistant. "I was out of work for several months one time," recalls Wharton. "It was tough. But when you love the work, and I do, it is just one of the costs."

Wharton has mingled his professional staff career with elective office - as have a number of political careerists. He was a longtime member of the Utah House and now serves in the state Senate. But legislative work, while often demanding, is part-time pay.

"At times you struggle financially," Wharton said. While his current job as Horiuchi's executive assistant pays well, that can't be said for being a party director or campaign manager, two jobs in Wharton's resume.

"Sometimes you're hard-pressed to explain to people (inquiring about a car loan or credit report) that while your job may not be permanent, neither are many other jobs out there," Hansen said.

Needed a second job

The job path is not for the weak of heart. Charlie Evans is a young political careerist who has struggled to provide for his family and is just now making waves in the Utah political community.

"One of my first jobs was with Dan Marriott in his 1990 congressional race," said Evans, who now is a top aide to Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. "I worked nights as a waiter. I made more money waiting tables than I did working on Dan's campaign. I've had to turn down some part-time or short-term job offers for people I really would have liked to work for. Those jobs didn't pay enough - I have a wife and children to support - so I had to take better paying or more secure work in some other (politician's) campaign.

"There are many young people out there who really want to get into politics. They're single and can live on almost nothing. It's a tough field to break into."

Public policy can be exciting

"I think I was born into it," laughs John Hiskey, recalling that he ran John F. Kennedy's election campaign in his sixth grade's mock election. In college, Hiskey was a volunteer in Robert Kennedy's presidential bid. In 1975, he joined with Salt Lake mayoral candidate Ted Wilson. When Wilson won, he appointed Hiskey assistant parks superintendent.

An unsuccessful candidate for elective office, Hiskey has relied for employment on others who have won the races. Those jobs have put him at the forefront of local public policy.

"There is an attraction and challenge in public administration that is stimulating to young people and that offers wonderful opportunities," Hiskey said. "Local government is where the decisions are made that affect people the most."

Even the downside of appointive politics isn't too bad, Hiskey said. "It's a double-edge sword. You know there will be changes and you'll have to move on, but the opportunity to impact the future and the community makes it all worthwhile."

Because Democrats generally are in the minority, the motivation for political involvement has to come from one's convictions rather than long-term employment aspirations, he said.

Can make some money

Appointive politics is often tough early on, but it can have practical rewards. While Wharton struggled financially for years, as Horiuchi's executive assistant he makes in the range of $65,000 a year.

Ted Stewart, an attorney, took a pay cut when he went to work as Rep. Jim Hansen's top aide in 1981. In 1985 he left Hansen's office when then-Gov. Norm Bangerter appointed him a public service commissioner. Following a brief stint as director of the state's Commerce Department - after Stewart lost his 1992 bid for the U.S. Senate - he was appointed by Gov. Mike Leavitt as director of the state Department of Natural Resources. In his Public Service Commission and Natural Resources positions, the pay ranges top out at more than $70,000 a year.

While some political careerists bounce around every couple of years, others have had long-term runs. John Gust for 16 years weathered the public criticism that comes with running public golf courses and recreational facilities in Salt Lake City, from 1976 to 1992.

In part, Gust says, he succeeded because he could financially afford to take risks as a manager. Gust had a private real estate development firm on the side. "I tried to have something to back me up (financially)," says Gust, who was replaced as parks director when Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini came into office.

"I had great bosses - Ted Wilson and Palmer DePaulis - who would let me do new and innovative things. I could do them because if someone got mad at me - and many did - and it cost me my job, OK. I had something else. Too many bureaucrats are too worried about losing their jobs."

Have to like the boss

Good bosses are the key to a happy career as a political appointee. But even good bosses can make mistakes. And when they do, it is often the appointed aide who has to take much of the heat.

"You end up making enemies because of the decisions you have to make," says Stewart - who has felt the heat of the public both toward the Public Service Commission, where utility rates are set, and now directing the Department of Natural Resources, where various environmental, wildlife and land-use issues collide. "My current job is the most difficult I've ever had. No matter what you do, you make some group unhappy. If you do this job right, you probably make everyone a little unhappy with you."

"Sometimes your boss goes against your (recommendations)," Wharton says. "It occasionally happens that his decision backfires. And you have to take some flak on what he does that you didn't agree with in the first place. So you take the heat for the elected official and go on. It comes with the job."

Public-policy highs

But the upside of public-policy work outweighs the minuses, according to all those interviewed.

"Simply put, you get to help make public policy. You get a chance to really change, impact, people's lives. And that is great," says Kay Christensen, longtime chief of staff to former Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and currently Corradini's chief of staff.

Jill Remington, a political appointee in three local administrations during the past 13 years, agrees. "It's a great experience, even if it is for the short term."

Remington has been active in local Democratic politics ever since she attended her first mass meeting at age 18. Her mentors and employers included Ted Wilson, Palmer DePaulis and Randy Horiuchi. She's just been elected vice chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

Not just hacks - they're qualified

Being a political appointee is no longer the same thing as being a political hack, Remington said, adding that most appointees are probably overqualified for their jobs. Remington herself has a master's degree in public administration.

"When you work on the staff of an elected official, you are aware of their future and how decisions will play politically, but you try to keep that separate from public policy," Remington said.

From the county Public Works Department, Johnson said, "If I worried about the politics of the decisions I make in my job, I would betray the trust that went along with my appointment. Contrary to what some people might believe, politics are not part of the job."

But away from the job, politics are a big part of Johnson's life. "One of the fun things about it is working with the young Democrats and trying to influence their attitudes and philosophies," he said.

"What I like most - you're in on the action," Wharton said. "You see your beliefs, your opinions, make a difference in public policy."

"I like the politics of politics," Hansen said. "But running campaigns is draining. You spend a year building a business, if you will, but it is a business that is only open one day: election day. And if you lose, you're out of business. And maybe out of a job, too."



"Sometimes you're hard-pressed to explain to people (inquiring about a car loan or credit report) that while you job may not be permanent, neither are many other jobs out there."

Dave Hansen

"It occasionally happens that (your boss's) decision backfires. And you have to take some flak on what he does....So you take the heat for the elected official and go on. It comes with the job."

Blaze Wharton




1972 - Paid employee on Nick Strike's gubernatorial campaign.

1973-74 - Executive director, Montana state GOP.

1979-84 - Executive director, Utah state GOP.

1984-85 - Regional director, National Republican Committee.

1985-91 - Deputy lieutenant governor in Gov. Norm Bangerter's administration.

1991-93 - Executive director, Utah state GOP.

1993-present - Regional director, National Republican Committee.


1983-85 - Political director for state AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor organization.

1985-89 - Executive director, state Democratic Party, appointed by then-Chairman Randy Horiuchi.

1990 (first several months) - executive director, Salt Lake County Democratic Party.

1990 (rest of the year) - Paid manager, Randy Horicuhi's Salt Lake County Commission campaign.

1991-present - Executive assistant, Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi.

Elective offices

1981 - Appointed to Utah House.

1982-92 - Elected to Utah House.

1992-present - Elected to Utah Senate.


1976 - Paid worker on President Carter's Utah campaigns.

1978 - Managed Ed Firmage's 2nd Congressional District campaign.

1980 - Paid worker on Carter's Utah campaigns.

1986 - Managed Wayne Owens' 2nd Congressional District campaign.

1987-92 - Chief of staff to Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah.

1992 - Coordinated Owens' U.S. Senate campaign (Owens lost).

1993-present - Chief of staff to Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini.


1975-87 - Assistant parks superintendent, administrative assistant and economic development director under Salt Lake Mayors Ted Wilson and Palmer DePaulis.

1987 - Salt Lake County public works director under Commissioner Dave Watson.

1988 - Acting county commissioner.

1989 - Salt Lake County Economic Development Corp.

1990-91 - West Jordan city manager.

1992-present - Economic Development Corp.


1990 - Worked on Dan Marriott's congressional campaign.

1992 - Worked on Richard Eyre's gubernatorial campaign (short stay). Then managed Olene Walker's congressional race. She joined Mike Leavitt as his lieutenant governor running mate. Evans then headed Bob Bennett's Utah County effort in Bennett's U.S. Senate race.

1993-present - Bennett's environmental/wilderness aide in Salt Lake City.


1981-85 - Top aide for newly elected Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, specializing in natural resources.

1985-92 - Public Service Commission member, appointed by Gov. Norm Bangerter.

1992 - Ran for U.S. Senate, lost in convention.

1992 - After Senate loss, appointed by retiring Bangerter to head Department of Commerce.

1993-present - Appointed by GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt as executive director of Department of Natural Resources.


1973-76 - Director of facilities and management, Salt Lake County.

1976-92 - Director of Salt Lake City Parks and Recreation, under Mayors Ted Wilson and Palmer DePaulis.


1985-91 - Economic development staff and administrative work for Salt Lake Mayors Ted Wilson and Palmer DePaulis.

1991-92 - Salt Lake County Economic Development Corp.

1992-present - Intergovernmental relations coordinator, Salt Lake County.


1978-86 - Chief deputy Salt Lake County treasurer under Arthur L. Monson.

1986-90 - Assistant to County Attorney David Yocom.

1991-present - County public works director under Commissioner Randy Horiuchi.