From task force meetings to groundbreakings, if the topic is housing or homelessness, Kerry W. Bate is somewhere in the crowd.
For more than a decade, Bate has managed the Department of Community and Economic Development's housing programs, which includes state and federal housing and homeless programs.For the past few years, he's helped form innovative partnerships between nonprofit agencies, businesses, banks and governments to increase Utah's stock of affordable housing.
Everyone benefits, he said, but the help is particularly important for low-income people who have very limited housing options.
Bate knows about limited options - and overcoming them. He was born in Cedar City, then reared in St. George until he was 14. His single-mom family never had any money and they relied for a time on public assistance for the basics. After they moved to Salt Lake City, he got involved with "Upward Bound," a program that matched colleges and teenagers to encourage the youths to further their educations.
"It had a dramatic impact on my life," he said. "I got a small scholarship to Weber State and a lot of help from people in the Upward Bound Office.
"I get tired of hearing how all the (social services) programs failed. They didn't. Everywhere you look you find people who benefited and have gone on to be productive and happy."
Bate describes himself as a political creature who is mellowing. For about a decade, he jokes, he was a "Central City political boss." Then he discovered that most issues are not partisan. "It's a political equation. You have to find people's common interests.
When he's not smoothing the way for housing deals, Bate loves to read history and biography and he's published pieces in the Utah Historical Quarterly. Utah history fascinates him, particularly in the area around Washington and Iron counties.
Bate and his wife, Marilyn, have seven children, ranging from 14 to 27. Family gatherings, he said, are boisterous and crowded. He has 10 grandkids, some living within three houses of him.
"When my family gets together, it's like a meeting of the United Nations." He has sons-in-law from Laos, Mexico, Vietnam and "even one from Millard County."
He loves to travel the state and the nation, but admits the best vacations include "running water." In his travels to national conferences, he has learned that the partnerships Utah likes to form are unusual.
One thought, he said, is always floating through his mind.
"This job's a lot of fun. Sometimes we forget what a privilege it is to be able to work for government. In other places, wars are fought for the right."
Mostly, he likes making things happen, fitting the pieces of a housing deal together like a jigsaw puzzle. "No proposal ever came through the door that you couldn't strangle at birth if you wanted," Bate said. "This is challenging. People find ways to not do anything sometimes. But most people really want to see good things happen."