Russ Behrmann never planned to be a political activist. He was a radio guy, he was a TV newsman.
"Basically, Stan Parrish talked me into it," says Behrmann, the new executive director of the Utah Republican Party. Parrish is the new state GOP chairman. And Behrmann, a former TV producer and reporter at Channel 4, got to know Parrish well when Parrish was the executive director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development and Behrmann was the department's public information officer."I've always been fascinated by politics. But before, as a journalist, I had to be impartial, fair. In fact, it was that fairness - the fact that I couldn't take sides and get involved to solve a problem or work an issue - that frustrated me with journalism."
Behrmann, 37, today lives with his wife and four children in Magna. A graduate of Hillcrest High School, he was born and raised in Salt Lake City and went to college for two years at Ricks College in southern Idaho.
It was in college that Behrmann got the radio bug. "I loved, still love, small-market radio." Behrmann worked at several small stations in and around Rexburg, home of Ricks College.
"I'd open the station, put it on the air. Usually that was around 5 a.m., early enough to catch the farmers milking their cows." After doing morning drive time - "Hey, people drive into Rexburg every day" - Behrmann would "go home and crash for a few hours, come back and sell some ads for the station and in the evening do the local sports shows."
Those included play-by-play for local high school football and basketball games. "I was shocked, coming from Salt Lake, to learn that high school sports is big-time in rural areas. Every small town had a radio station and every station carried the games live. Of course, some fields and gyms didn't have press boxes at all. I did one high school football game - I'm not kidding - halfway up a telephone pole so I could see over the crowds and still get at the microphone."
Sometimes Behrmann had to call the play-by-play all by himself. What if he didn't have anything to say? What if he had to go to the bathroom during a two-hour football game? "You talked no matter what. You took care of the latter before you went on the air."
Behrmann hankered to get back to Salt Lake City, so he took a job as a disc jockey at the old K-TALK station when it was playing Top 40 tunes. "We didn't have any names on the air. Really. We were the `Joes.' One guy was the morning Joe, another the noon Joe and I was the afternoon DJ, the afternoon Joe. Those were our names - Joe. It didn't catch on. We had about six listeners."
From there, Behrmann went to Channel 4, first as a producer, then as the station's crime and courts reporter. It was during the long Singer/Swapp trial of the late 1980s that Behrmann decided TV news wasn't for him. "I had had enough of sitting on hard courtroom benches. I had a young family that hardly saw me. I got tired of telling my son I'd be at his soccer game, and then work until 10 p.m. because some crook robbed a store. I didn't control my life, criminals and fires did."
So he took the state PR job, met Parrish, and finally got into partisan politics.
"I look forward to bringing the state (Republican) party into the information technology age. The world is really changing quickly. We will soon be able, as citizens and party members, to communicate directly with our elected representatives. If they'll listen to us, it will be a real opportunity to change the way we govern ourselves."
Republicans can govern best, Behrmann believes, and he wants to help his party win elections and govern well.