Ending several weeks of speculation, Gov. Mike Leavitt and Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini named Bob Garff as chairman of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee Board of Trustees.
Garff, a former Utah House speaker and automobile dealer, replaces Frank Joklik as chairman. Joklik took over as SLOC president and chief executive officer from Tom Welch earlier this year.The image of the Olympics has suffered since Welch resigned just before he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of spouse abuse, and accepted a $1 million severance package that included a $10,000-a-month consulting fee.
Both the governor and mayor had felt the pressure to find someone who could restore public confidence in the 2002 Winter Games. They said Wednesday they found that person in Garff.
Leavitt said Garff "brings an enormous amount of respect in our community." And Corradini praised Garff's understanding of the Games as a public-private partnership.
Garff said he believes Utahns are behind the Olympics.
"Right now, we're in a position where there's a fresh start," Garff said. "Our honeymoon period is not over and the public will still give us a chance."
His first stint as chairman of the board, which includes 40 members and alternates, will be on Oct. 9. The governor is scheduled to address the board about the state's role in overseeing the Olympics.
Garff will not be paid as chairman. He had filled another volunteer post with the organizing committee, that of chairman of the three-member Board of Ethics.
He'll continue to be the chief executive officer of Garff Enterprises Inc., a holding company based in Salt Lake City that includes 17 Garff auto dealerships in the state.
Garff Enterprises, which is merging with the Rick Warner Auto Group, employs 700 people and also has real estate in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii. Garff was named the state's Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995.
He was a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 1978-86. A Republican, he held various leadership roles including a term as House Speaker from 1985-86.
He serves on the board of directors for First Security Bank Corp., Intermountain Health Care and Deseret Book. Both the bank and IHC have dealings with the Olympics.
Garff also currently serves on the University of Utah Board of Trustees, the Utah Symphony Advisory Board and the Oulessebougou-Utah Alliance Executive Committee and the governor's crime-fighting committee.